Taj city frets in dark despite privatisation

October 23rd, 2011 - 10:40 am ICT by IANS  

Agra, Oct 23 (IANS) This Taj city turns dark for several hours daily despite privatisation of power distribution last year and a clear Supreme Court directive to ensure “uninterrupted power supply” to the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone.

Power distribution in the city was privatised in April 2010. The Torrent Power Company, which claimed it had done wonders in Gujarat, took over charge from state-owned Dakshinanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Ltd.

Torrent, which promised a “bright future” and whose advertisement punch line was “To make Agra shining and bright as the Taj”, criticizes the state government for not supplying enough power. Against a demand of around 350 MVA, Agra is getting only around 250 MVA.

Uttar Pradesh Electricity Minister Ramvir Upadhyaya, who stays in the city and whose wife Seema Upadhyaya is the Lok Sabha MP from the Fatehpur Sikri rural Agra seat, said there is a huge shortfall in power generation.

The power cuts in the last 15 days have ranged from anything between six hours and 12 hours daily. Every few days there is an act of vandalism, destruction of property or a road jam against the private discom.

The Supreme Court in 1996 directed the state government to provide uninterrupted power supply in Taj Trapezium Zone to save the 17th century monument from pollution by gensets.

The local MPs have held a series of Lok Adalats against Torrent. Divisional commissioner Amrit Abhijat has periodically issued stern warnings. Sudhir Gupta, an irate resident of Vijay Nagar colony, fumed: “They have a 24×7 helpline number but it has not proved helpful.”

Torrent officials said in their defence that the regular shutdowns have been necessitated by the need for maintenance for the coming winter.

“Increased load in many areas led to tripping and malfunctioning of the equipments, including transformer burnouts, but now we are trying to restore and speed up the work,” a company official told IANS.

Said environmentalist Shravan Kumar Singh of the Heritage Conservation Society: “Every time there is a blackout of this nature, more than 60,000 generators run on diesel are started to provide power to shops, factories and showrooms.”

“So all the good work done to contain air pollution is reduced to naught and this being the festival season, the demand for power is substantially higher,” he said.

“If diesel-run generators keep running non-stop, the emission levels are naturally going to be alarmingly high,” he added.

Due to erratic power supply, the Agra Water Works too has been affected, as has industrial production in the city.

“Half of the city has remained without water for many days,” said environmentalist Ravi Singh.

The Water Works has written to the district authorities to ensure uninterrupted power supply.

Rajeev Gupta, representing the Indian Industries Association, said factories in the city have been badly hit “and this being festival time, orders for supply are pending”.

The tourism industry and the hoteliers are equally alarmed.

“Power supply in Agra is erratic and inadequate. Tourists find it very irritating and feel disturbed in the dead of night when there is no electricity. It takes time to start generators and the ACs don’t work,” Goverdhan Hotel owner Surendra Sharma told IANS.

Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association president Rakesh Chauhan said: “The state government should have realised the importance of tourism and made arrangements to meet the shortfall.”

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at brij.k@ians.in)

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