Imphal is the only Capital which gets less than five hours of electricity a day
Eighty per cent of the people in Manipur were able to see Mary Kom’s semi-final match at the London Olympics as the State Government stretched a 100-KV line to 132 KV to ensure maximum supply, said a senior government official here on Thursday. “The display board on my desk was flickering. We were afraid the line will break if we increased it further!” the official added.
Imphal is perhaps the only Capital city in the country that gets electricity for less than five hours a day. The daily lives of people in Manipur revolve round power, and the lack of it. There is a rush of activities when electricity lights up their homes and a resigned submission when the lights go off, which it does with precise accuracy. Inverters and generators bought from the Moreh market at the border Manipur shares with Myanmar keep a single light source in homes running when darkness descends every alternate night.
The decade-long problem has been normalised and the state of affairs has been regularised with the business hours adjusting to the hours when there is light. Citing a Comptroller and Auditor General report on electricity in the State, Jawaharlal Nehru University Associate Professor A. Akoijam Bimol says it is the flaws in management that have lead to the current situation.
“This is an institutional failure on part of the department. Ten years and two Plans have gone by. We want to know what the Government is doing?” he says.
Along with Pradip Phanjoubam and Professor Amar Yumnam, Professor Bimol had in January last year filed a public interest litigation before the Guwahati High Court Imphal Bench that issued a notice of motion returnable within four weeks to the concerned power authority.
As an immediate response, the State Electricity Department clamped down on illegal lines and consumers with unpaid bills. But reportedly it was only the common people who were penalised while the rich and powerful escaped with their electricity dues intact.
It has been a year since then, and nothing has moved on that front, rues Professor Bimol.
“One does not need political consciousness to understand the enormity of this problem as everybody gets affected — babies’ clothes cannot be ironed, television cannot be turned on, small businesses like flour mills and cyber cafes do not work and incur losses.”
Talking about development in terms of building flyovers and markets when citizens live without power on a daily basis does not make sense, he adds.
Meanwhile, the State Government is experimenting with pre-paid recharge of electricity in core areas of Imphal.
“Just like you recharge your mobile phones, you can recharge your electricity and it will assure 24 hours of supply. We have experimentally taken this up since April this year in the market area, around the Secretariat, Chief Minister's bungalow and police compound. If it works we will try to expand to other areas as well,” a senior government official told The Hindu.
While the State demand for power is 200 MW, the supply is only 100 MW. Purchasing power from nearby States is not a viable solution as the State has only a 132-KV line and it will not be able to bear the load. A 165-km-long 400-KV line between Silchar in Assam and Imphal is under construction by Power Grip Corporation of India and the Rs.700-crore project is expected to be completed by March 2013, the official added.
Calling it a gimmick, Professor Bimol says: “The deadline for the power grid is revised every year and we are still waiting for it.”