Sunday, October 1, 2023

Energy shortage

It is the typical phenomenon in Nagaland. When harsh weather come calling, the state’s power department cuts a sorry figure in reaching the demand and the need of the people. With mercury rising rapidly (nearly 40 degree centigrade as on May 31), our people, particularly those living in Dimapur, Niuland and Chumukedima districts, appear to be headed for yet another dark and sweaty summer with long hours of power curtailment despite many promises. With the fate of the urban areas not very promising, the plight of those in rural areas is difficult to speculate. During summer, power scarcity has become a regular phenomenon in these three districts like elsewhere across the state in the wake of widening gap between the demand and supply. Yet it is the total absence of a viable plan to streamline the supply of available power judiciously and in fair manner, which adds to the mess and triggers people’s ire against the government of the day. Indeed it is rightly said that nothing moves along a straight line in our part of the world. Men and matters take all sorts of convoluted routes with the result that problems usually do not get resolved; they get multiplied. Raging public controversy caused by irrational distribution of energy (power) in the state is a typical example of how manageable things are so easily made unmanageable simply for want of common sense or willful neglect; or both. Since this game involves huge money all along the line there is thriving corruption, which, in turn, breeds a vested interest in perpetuating mismanagement at the expense of the consumers. There is no doubt that Nagaland suffers from acute and growing energy shortage. This by itself is an irony, considering the state’s known rich sources of power production have not been tapped. Increasing gap between supply and demand reveals a chronic faulty approach. Energy shortage has been increasing year after year and existing system of distribution has also been deteriorating even while it was being expanded, mainly for political reasons. The problem arises out of a simple and straight question: How much is the actual shortfall between availability and the demand for energy and what is the rationale adopted to manage this shortage? Managing shortages involves practical thinking, which is very much within human competence. Thanks to political shortsightedness of successive rulers, power shortage is an endemic problem in Nagaland. Some previous governments were, however, able to work out a fairly satisfactory distribution arrangement with least possible inconvenience to the consumers. But like in every other sphere of public administration, successive governments have been found wanting in coping with the power shortage. It has been resorting to gimmickry rather than applying its mind to work out a rational load shedding schedule. The erratic schedule of load shedding by the power department show how serious matters are being dealt with in a non-serious manner. Passing the buck from one to the other agencies has not worked in the past and, for sure, it is not going to work in future. Consumers are being held to ransom. Domestic consumers are the worst hit at a time when climatic conditions are extremely hostile. And it is bound to get worse in the coming days. The least that the government could have done to mitigate the sufferings of consumers was to follow the ways and means adopted by previous regimes. There is still time to do that instead of riding high horses and selling misleading dreams. The government should take the issue seriously, discuss it purposefully and come out with immediate action plan to manage the energy shortage. Clearly it is time for some introspection and realization that there is something seriously ailing with the power supply system that calls for drastic short term and long term over hauling. While short term steps call for revamping the corrupt and complacent system, the long term steps call for better, more feasible and reliable power generation systems that are effective and cost effective rather than raving and ranting about the big white elephantine power projects which eventually land in the kitty of the power grids, leaving the state even poorer, besides also creating ecological problems.