Maharashtra has been reeling under a power crisis for over a week due to short supply of coal, in the wake of the Telangana agitation, leaving much of the rural areas in darkness with 13 to 14 hour power cuts and cities for three to eight hours.

However, relief seems to be in the offing with 700 MW being assured in the next few days after Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar rushed to New Delhi on Wednesday to meet Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and others.

Mumbai has the luxury of being isolated from power cuts and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan parried questions of loadshedding in the city. Stoppage of coal from the Singareni mines in Andhra Pradesh has affected production of power at Parli. Usually the State needs 24 rakes of coal daily but in the last three weeks the supply has shrunk to 11 or 12 rakes a day.

In addition, floods in Orissa had cut off supplies from the Mahanadi coalmines, affecting power production in the Koradi, Chandrapur, Paras and Khaparkheda plants.

Briefing the media, Mr. Chavan appealed to people not to indulge in violence and politicise the issue. Reports of electricity supply offices being burnt have been coming in for a couple of days from the State and the Bharatiya Janata Party has threatened an agitation if the matter was not resolved in five days.

Mr. Chavan denied that the State had enough coal supplies and there were problems only with power plants. It's a national crisis and other States were also affected. The focus now was on grid management, he pointed out.

The demand for power in Maharashtra now is 16,000-16,500 MW and production is 11,000-11,500 MW. Usually in October the demand is 13,500-14,000 MW. However the heat and rabi preparations have upped the demand.

The State faces a shortage of 3500-4000 MW and is getting 1500 MW less from the central projects. In addition, reduced coal supply has affected power production in the southern States, reducing the frequency of the national grid and causing tripping.

Industries will not get power for 16 hours once a week and there is a schedule of staggering power supply for each region. In addition Mahavitaran, the State electricity distribution company, decided to stop power for agriculture pumps for one day in a week. The rest of the days farmers will get eight hours of power. Mr. Chavan admitted this shortage would affect preparations for the rabi season ahead.

Official sources said that after the meeting with Mr. Pawar and other ministers, Mr. Shinde agreed to release 300 MW from Wednesday for Maharashtra — 200 MW from the NTPC plant at Sipat in Chhattisgarh and 100 MW from the central power projects.

Also the State will get two additional rakes of coal in a day or two. This will help an additional generation 700-800 MW. From October 14 to October 18, 100 MW each will be available from the Vindyachal, Korba and Gandhar power plants. The Centre has also sanctioned additional natural gas of 0.9mmscmd (million metric standard cubic meter per day) to the Dabhol power plant over the next 8 to 10 days which will help the plant to generate 180-200 MW in addition to the 1600 MW it is producing now.

The government is also examining the prospect of buying power from other sources and is prepared to pay the market price, Mr. Chavan said.