Electricity board cites lack of personnel, materials

When the evening turns dark, soft yellow glow of candles light up the window panes of houses situated along the Mundakkal hillock of Peruvayal panchayat here.

Exams are near. Children bring their books to the dining table, sit around the burning candles and study while women quietly prepare dinner in a corner. The men lounge outside in chairs, their talk hardly over a whisper.

In over 50 houses at Mundakkal ward in the panchayat, the bulbs and tubes do not work. Even on the rare occasion they do, all they can manage is a depressing glow of red-hot filament.

Here, TVs, refrigerators and other household electric goods are just for keepsakes, lying discarded in various corners of the houses. Many of the houses have cartons piled high with fused CFL bulbs, unable to withstand the voltage drops.

For the past three years, the entire ward suffers from chronic low voltage.

Jayarajan K.P. say the voltage dips to an abysmal low after 5 p.m. Children are told to study as soon as they return from school. Families stay awake till 2 a.m. in the morning to switch on the fans and get some sleep in the hot summer.

“Mundakkal is situated on the tip of the city’s nose - hardly 10 km away from its hustle and bustle. But it invariably sinks into the dark ages when night falls, everyday for the past three years. We are fed up of approaching the electricity and panchayat authorities asking them to do something about this,” Sasidharan K.P., a resident, said.

“Electricity board officials blame lack of materials and personnel for the situation. Every time we complain, they promise that the matter will be resolved in a month’s time,” Harish N., an engineer in the neighbourhood, said.

“Two days ago I had spoken to the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) officials at the Balussery division under which Mundakkal comes. They said the problem of low voltage at Mundakkal has been noted and will be solved in the next two months,” K.K. Manjusha, panchayat member who represents the area, said.

Panchayat authorities also point to the spurt in construction activities seen in Mundakkal area since 2010. The electricity board, they say, has not been able to match up with the extra load.

But Executive Engineer, Balussery division, Vinod Kumar, said his office has hardly any role in the voltage hiccup at Mundakkal area.

“The area is part of the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (R-APDRP), a scheme meant to cut losses during distribution. Any problem in the area has to be now resolved by the separate wing which is handling the R-APDRP project,” he said.

The over Rs. 200-crore project envisages laying underground cables in a 286-km stretch spanning across Kozhikode, Feroke and Balussery divisions in the district. It aims to bring down technical and commercial losses in Kozhikode to 15 percent.

“Whatever be the project… our issue right now is that we do not have light. And this has been the case for the past three years. There has been no explanation forthcoming from the board officials or authorities so far,” Sumesh K., a resident, said.

Besides boycotting the general elections, the residents are devising protest strategies against the officialdom.

“We have decided to take our children to the KSEB office, they will study from there for their exams. If we are thrown out by the KSEB people, we will make them study under the streetlights,” said Sathyabhama S., a mother of two school-going children, voicing her exasperation.

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