Look who's sleepless in Chennai

Last Updated: Tue, Oct 30, 2012 06:12 hrs

​Chennai used to be a city that went to sleep by nine. Not anymore. In fact, you would be surprised at the number of people who are sleepless in Chennai.  

Like the  DMK chief M Karunanidhi  who,  a few days ago,  confessed that he was losing sleep over bickering among senior party men such as SS Palanimanckam,  a Minister of State, who indulged in one upmanship against TR Baalu, DMK’s parliamentary party  leader. Writing in his party organ Murasoli Karunanidhi said "When I go to sleep, such factional feuds engulf me and make me sleepless."

Writing in his inimitable style, he further wondered: "What can the party cadre do except shed tears in blood, when two senior leaders enjoying party positions fight in the open?" It had the desired effect. Palanimanickam tendered an apology at once. Meanwhile, Karunanidhi’s son MK Stalin called on his brother MK Alagiri. In case you are tuning in late, lets bring you up to speed : the sibling rivalry between the two is legendary, and the stuff of a blockbuster Tamil movie.

But Karunanidhi is not the only one to have lost his beauty sleep. After the heavy downpour over the last few days, Chennai has once again earned itself the dubious distinction of  being  a rain-challenged city. The 25 cm of rainfall over the city in the last three weeks have resulted in flooded roads, broken road surfaces and choked storm water drains , leaving practically every Chennaiite wide eyed—in dismay.  

In fact, the heavy rains  experienced  between October 1 and October 22 have ushered in over 50 % excess rainfall in all but seven districts in the state.  Met department data shows that against the normal rainfall of 126.2 mm, the state (including Puducherry) actually received 190.7 mm of rainfall. The seven districts - Ariyalur, Dharmapuri, Kanyakumari, Namkkal, Perambalur and Salem – have notched up normal rainfall during the same time frame.

While the rains brought their own civic woes to the homes of many, the power shortage in the state continues to be the mother of all sleep deprivers. After announcing a two hour power cut for Chennai city a few days ago, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa sought more power for the state from the Centre. Citing the plans of the Delhi government to surrender 1,721 MW of power to the Centre, she wrote to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh  urging him to allocate the same to Tamil Nadu.

In her letter, she pointed out "There is a severe shortage of power in Tamil Nadu due to the failure of the southwest monsoon and the constraints we face in buying power from sources outside the southern region owing to corridor congestion. In view of the demand-supply gap of about 4000 MW, which is the highest in the southern region, widespread load shedding is being resorted to, causing severe hardship to  consumers."

Noting that "The Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi has proposed to surrender power from various Central Generating Stations for the period from November 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013 for a quantum of 230 MW round-the-clock (00.00 to 24.00 hrs) and 1491 MW during 00.00 to 06.00 hrs,"  Jayalalithaa  wanted the Centre to route this excess power to Tamil Nadu.

It is common knowledge that a number of power projects in the state have not come to fruition for one reason or the other. Allocation from the central grid would have come as a relief to the people of Tamil Nadu who have been living with patchy power supply for over a year now.

However, the union power ministry has  turned down the appeal for power relief. Late Thursday night, media reports quoted  Union Minister of State for Power, KC Venugopal  as saying that "despite surplus power available in the Northern grid due to overloading of inter-regional transmission system, further allocation is not feasible".

Venugopal made these comments after reviewing the NTPC Tamil Nadu Energy Company limited's (NTECL) Vallur  thermal power project  near Chennai.   NTECL is  joint venture between NTPC and Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Company (TANGEDCO), and was set up to develop,  implement and operate Vallur power project near Chennai. The minister of state added  that the Centre was keenly tracking the Vallur project for speedy completion. When ready, 75 % of its production would go to meet  Tamil Nadu's needs.  

But that is still far into the future. For now, it is sleepless in Chennai, for many.

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Bhama Devi Ravi is a Chennai based journalist