Taj city fumes over unending power crisis

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 17, 2013 07:50 hrs

Agra, Jan 17 (IANS) Thirty months after a private discom took charge of energy distribution in the Taj city, there seems to be no relief from long power cuts and erratic supply.

This, when the Supreme Court has directed uninterrupted power supply to India's most popular destination.

"People thought the private sector would perform better but the experience has not been wholly satisfying from any angle," complained hotelier Surendra Sharma.

Just before the Uttar Pradesh elections last year, the Samajwadi Party (SP) put up numerous hoardings in Agra to announce its commitment to free Agra of the "stranglehold of the private discom Torrent Power Ltd".

Once in power, the assurance has been forgotten, say agitated power consumers who have been waging a war of words for the past two years.

Torrent supplies power to urban consumers within the Agra municipal limits. The vast rural hinterland is still served by the state-run firm, Dakshinanchal Vidhyut Vitran Nigam Ltd.

"It is strange that no one is satisfied with the performance of Torrent that replaced Dakshinanchal, which was targeted for inefficiency and corruption," said Vijay Nagar resident Sudheir Gupta.

But Gupta added that Torrent "has a fair record in Gujarat".

Power generation is in the hands of the government. Torrent distributes what it gets, a company official said in defence.

"In peak winter months and during summer, the demand goes up phenomenally. But the supply remains low or the same. How to meet the gap, this is the crux of the problem," the official told IANS.

He added that power cuts were ordered from Lucknow "and we get the blame".

Pankaj Saxena, a senior manager of the private discom, told IANS that the company catered to 2.82 lakh consumers in Agra city after deleting around 50,000 fake or duplicate connections.

"While maintaining the system round-the-clock and redressing grievances promptly, we have been adding to our consumer base also," he said, adding that the scenario will change for the better as time goes by.

But the number of complaints against Torrent has reached new heights. "This can snowball and explode soon," said Rajeev Gupta, a business leader of Agra.

In recent weeks, attacks on Torrent teams by residents, including in Dalit as well as posh localities, have sent shock waves.

Industrial manufacturers are equally agitated. At a meeting this week, the Engineering Components Manufacturers Association decided to hand over keys of their establishments to the divisional commissioner.

Consumers' woes are aplenty.

They talk about fast running meters which are placed outside the premises and not inside. Who will be responsible for their security?

"The company is particular about payment of bills and prompt while disconnecting lines. But attending to complaints and sorting out major issues of maintenance and distribution are not worth their attention," alleged Premendra Jain, a resident of Kamla Nagar.

"People are learning what privatisation in effect means," added social activist Shravan Kumar Singh.

With power tariff going up alarmingly, the resentment is only bound to mount further.

It was while disposing of M.C. Mehta's PIL on pollution to save the Taj Mahal in 1996 is when the Supreme Court assured uninterrupted power supply to India's most popular tourist destination.

"The powers that be are not even bothered about the directive of the apex court," says "Wake Up Agra" president Shishir Bhagat.

"They do not realise that once light go off, thousands of polluting diesel generators start coughing toxic gases and smoke, increasing the pollution.

"This negates all our efforts at neutralizing pollution abatement exercises," he said.

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