Mandira Nayar

NDMC officials struggle to repair an underground cable fault

NEW DELHI: Reeling under perhaps one of its longest power cuts in recent times, much of Lutyens' Delhi had to contend with no electricity for the second day in a row on Wednesday as New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) officials struggled to repair an underground cable fault.

While tempers ran high and the NDMC officials came under fire from senior bureaucrats, journalists and even Ministers, the problem was likely to be fixed only in the early hours of Thursday. Officials maintained that the source of the problem had been detected, but the delay was because crucial equipment had to be flown in from Mumbai.

"The problem has been detected and our men have been working on the cable fault since Tuesday night. Things like this can't be foreseen. Two joints in the cable have to be replaced. These joints are made by an American company, Raychem, which had only one such joint in stock in Delhi. We needed two,'' explained a senior official.

The Capital's private power distribution companies also use Raychem joints. But unlike the NDMC, they seem to have ample stocks of the joints.

The NDMC officials, however, offered a reason for not stocking up on this essential part. "These joints have a shelf life of a year or two, so we can't store them,'' they said.

Losses to NDMC

This whole crisis has cost the NDMC over Rs. 3 lakh since Tuesday evening -- only on the cabling and the joints -- while the loss of revenue and the cost on manpower are yet to be assessed. The monetary costs apart, the episode according to seasoned Delhiites raises doubts about the NDMC's ability to handle routine problems even though its jurisdiction extends to only 42.74 sq. km.

Interestingly, a city assessment commissioned by the NDMC through its consultants IL&FS Ecosmart Limited to bid for a project under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission programme lists large procedural delays in responding to repair and maintenance requirements as a problem. The assessment also notes that there is no centralised monitoring of the system and there is a need for capacity building at lower levels of the department.