Andhra Pradesh is reeling under a severe power crisis, unprecedented at a time with the monsoon still around, as thermal generation has fallen steeply following the coalminers' strike in the Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL).

Industries are forced to observe a power holiday for three full days a week, Hyderabad is facing four-hour-long power cuts, smaller cities and towns up to eight hours and farmers dependent on borewell irrigation are trembling over the likely prospect of the kharif crop withering away for lack of water.

The crisis also threatens to spill onto the roads. Tension prevailed for the second day running on the Vijayawada-Hyderabad National Highway 9 when Telangana activists obstructed buses coming from coastal Andhra to protest against the denial of power to the farmers. Unlike on Sunday, when they damaged over 30 buses, the situation on Monday did not go out of hand as the Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy promised to resolve their grievance.

Coal production falls

Apart from complete paralysis of bus services in Telangana, the power sector is the worst hit by the 22-day-old strike called by the Telangana Joint Action Committee (T-JAC) as coal production in SCCL has plummeted from a daily average of 1.50 lakh tonnes to 36,700 tonnes. Thermal stations, particularly NTPC's 2600 MW unit at Ramagundam, have taken a hit while hydel stations are operating below full capacity as there are no inflows in the Krishna river.

The NTPC has been forced to shut down one 500 MW unit and reduce generation from others. As a result, it is operating at 70 per cent of its capacity (1520 MW) thus affecting power supply not only in AP (31.5 per cent share), Tamil Nadu (24 per cent), Karnataka (18 per cent), Kerala (12 per cent) but also in Goa and Puducherry.

Dry spell in south

What has made things worse is that Southern States are passing through a prolonged dry spell that has only increased the demand for power. In AP, the total demand has shot up to 272 million units (mu) whereas the supply from all sources is 225 mu. The brunt of this 47 mu shortfall is being borne by the industries which consume forty per cent of the power generated, APTRANSCO chairman and managing director Ajay Jain told The Hindu.

Ironically, Telangana farmers are the worst-hit because they are more dependent on borewells than their coastal Andhra counterparts, which have large delta tracts. Pointing out that 60 per cent of the borewells lie in Telangana, Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy said TRS president K. Chandrasekhar Rao and T-JAC convenor would have to take the blame squarely if the Telangana farmers suffered.

But, Telangana protagonists accuse Mr. Reddy of not allowing hydel stations to operate at full capacity and permitting private players like LANCO to export power to other States, thus causing suffering to farmers in Telangana. The politics over ‘power' is costing the State an extravagant amount of about Rs. 60 crore a day for purchases from outside.

A silver lining in the issue was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's direction to the Eastern Power Grid on Monday to supply 800 MW to Andhra Pradesh.