By Mayank Jain:
Honourable Prime Minister of India,
First of all, I would like to congratulate you for holding the premier office of the country and now that elections are over, I would suggest you get to work right away and tackle the burning issues that the country faces on priority.
We stand at a very critical juncture in the history and future of this country because we are just midway between our dark times of foreign rule and our goal of development. The next decade could define our future in a way like nothing else would. We can either become the next Grenada or the next Belgium but that depends on the course you choose for the rest of us.
The recent UNESCO survey report reiterates the sham house that we call the education system, as 37% of the world’s illiterate adults reside in India. When we talk of problems like corruption, robbery, infanticide and everything else we put the blame on education like no other and quote recent census to prove that we are building schools. But how can a child study in the dark, honourable prime minister? Is it that easy to survive in the Indian summers and winters without electricity? I am not talking about power cuts but simple electrification. Many of the villages don’t even have a power connection forget getting uninterrupted power supply. Are we ever going to fight the power crisis of households before we talk about industries and FDI?
We have secured the first position in the world for the largest unelectrified population: 290 million. What happened to energy sector reforms? What happened to our five year goals and energy independence that we have been setting since independence? Youth Ki Awaaz based on data and analyses supplied by “AskHow” would like to ask a few questions to the leaders and politicians regarding the huge gap between electricity supply and demand in the country and how we can guarantee 24 hours of electricity availability to one and all.
How badly do we need some electricity?
We don’t need ‘some’ electricity. We need a lot of electricity to cover the length and breadth of this nation. We have come only to 66% till 2010 from 43% in 2001 as per the census and it will take us years to reach 100% if we continue at the same growth rate, maintaining which is a task in itself though.
The sad state of the country reflects in the various population and illiteracy surveys where we top the charts and the development indexes where we find it difficult to manage a modest place.
I personally feel that the best way to manage electricity in the country has turned out to be privatization because the TATA managed New Delhi Power Limited has churned out some good measures and shown active interest in actually serving the final consumer rather than just rubbishing them off as source of some funds for meeting the expenses that government subsidies are unable to accommodate.
While privatization may seem lucrative, it can only happen when we have the infrastructure in place and right now we are far away from laying electric lines in every village of the country and most of them remain unconnected to the major grids and hence have been staying in the dark since forever.
Why don’t we have electricity?
Electricity generation in India is very high being fifth largest in the world but we still fall short by a large measure to provide our population with at least a bulb and fan running the whole day for their comfort. The 233 gigawatts that India produces are not enough to ensure electricity to the whole population and some villages in the hinterland completely lose out in this race for the ‘light’ while metropolitan cities are bustling with industries ready to gobble up as much electricity as we choose to provide them.
Around 66% of electricity generation is dependent on the availability of coal and that should ideally be a good thing in a country with so much coal available in abundance but it is rather a bane for us since it is still short of the required demand to generate electricity. The shortage also results in import of coal which is expensive and also erodes our foreign exchange reserves.
The other major reason is the lack of connection to grids. Most of the villages aren’t connected to electricity supplying grids and hence they have no hope of getting any electricity in the near future. These villagers, in turn, choose to buy electricity from off grid providers like solar power at rates as high as 8-10 rupees for a unit which is almost double the prevalent rates because they value electricity as pivotal to their work and education.
How can we guarantee 24 hours of electricity?
The problem of electricity shortage isn’t as complex as it looks and given the right steps we can fight through it in no time and guarantee a minimum amount of electricity availability to each one of us.
Honourable Prime Minister, please pay attention to the fuel needs of the electricity generation companies. Even the big cities are able to receive power for only 12-18 hours a day on an average due to shortage of fuel. Please do something to ensure that our coal can be supplied to existing and future plants cheaply and with assurance.
Please allocate some of your consideration to developing alternative energy sources to tap in our rich natural wealth. The solar power could definitely be a winner for the rural areas and nuclear energy needs to pick up as well but the estimates based on CEA data predict it to be merely stagnant until 2017.
Another big reform is needed in the area of efficiency. Lots of power is lost just in the transmission and even the distributed power gets stolen at the hands of greedy consumers who do all sorts of tampering with their power connections to stay off grid and yet enjoy the cool of their ACs in their plush homes. A stricter check on such electricity laundering is much needed. We need to phase out the older plants and generation units as well because 25% of electricity comes from plants more than 30 years old which require lots of maintenance and produce inefficiently.
The four things I’d recommend you to consider are:
1. Supply cheap coal reliably to the power industry.
2. Reduce losses by efficient transmission of electricity.
3. Connect villages hitherto remaining in the dark.
4. Pay Subsidies: Most of the power is subsidized and the companies have to sell it at lower rates to consumers or for free in some cases (agricultural, for example). This results in lack of cash flows and the government is continually defaulting on its obligations to pay these subsidies to the companies resulting in huge losses and lack of motivation and resources to innovate or improve efficiency thereby taking the whole economy down with themselves.
I hope I have convinced you of electricity as a basic human need for all citizens and I hope and pray that you would very soon articulate a concrete plan to provide twenty four hours of affordable power to all citizens of our country.
With warm regards
Â AskHow India is a group of Indian citizens that aims to raise the quality of debate before the 2014 elections. They believe that a simple way of improving public discussion is to ask the question ‘How’. They think that the citizens should ask political parties how their challenges would be tackled rather than request them to grant their wishes. For example, they think that “How can the next Prime Minister of India lower food prices?” is a superior question to “Can the next Prime Minister of India reduce food prices?Â Like AskHow India on Facebook here.