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Irksome Power Outages

State government must invest in power distribution network

EVEN though the monsoon is expected to arrive in Goa in two days, the electricity department has not completed its pre-monsoon maintenance works in several parts of the state. Several areas including Panaji have been facing power disruptions due to the department’s failure to complete pre-monsoon works. Though there were shutdowns for pre-monsoon works, Panaji has been facing power disruptions of short durations almost every day for the past several months. Consumers are irked by the failure of the department to give them uninterrupted power. Too many disruptions indicate poor planning and poorer execution of the plans for preventing breakdowns.

The explanations given by the electricity department are not very convincing.  They say there was delay in the completion of pre-monsoon maintenance work owing to deployment of their staff for election work. The department, they plead, could begin pre-monsoon works only after the employees drafted for election work were relieved. It is hard to believe that power department officials from the maintenance section were drafted for election duty. Normally the Election Commission does not deploy those associated with maintenance work. Even if the names of employees from maintenance section figure in the lists they are removed if the department pleads for their exclusion. Such exclusions have been common in the past. Why were technical officials allowed to be deployed for election work? Why did not the power department tell the chief electoral officer that they require the technical staff for completing pre-monsoon works in time, as the duration of deployment of the staff was going to stretch almost through May, almost near the onset of monsoon?  In any case, the election process in Goa, except for Panaji Assembly, was completed by April 23.

The department officials have said that the pre-monsoon works would continue for at least another week. Chief Electrical Engineer Reshma Mathew has assured the public that there would be no major issues after the completion of pre-monsoon works and urged people to understand the difficulties faced by the department. People are irked because pre-monsoon winds and showers have come with outages in many areas. It is sad to note that though assurance of setting things right before the monsoon is given every year people have to face power outages. Of course, the power infrastructure needs a major investment in the state, and that is not happening. In most parts of the state, power is still supplied through overhead lines. Overhead wires touch one another when a tree gets uprooted due to strong winds. Sometimes branches of trees snap during the monsoon and fall on power lines, breaking them and cutting power supply. This problem has been perennial and would continue till overhead lines are substituted with underground power lines. That is unlikely to happen in the near future as the government cannot find adequate funds for it.

Uninterrupted power supply is essential for activities in households, offices and businesses. The causes for power interruptions, especially during the monsoon, are known and the action that is required is to draw up a calendar and work accordingly to address the issues. The calendar for maintenance of electrical installations and power lines must have been drawn well in advance and the works should have been carried out as planned. The infrastructure for power distribution for both domestic and commercial consumers must be strengthened. There is no shortage of power availability for the state. The problem lies in the faulty distribution system. The problems relating to distribution are known. The state government has to give priority to improvement in power distribution. The state must raise money to fund transformation of the power distribution system. The state is small and can handle its own distribution, unlike bigger states that have set up a separate entity for power distribution. The government must fund underground cabling as it would help prevent frequent power outages due to tripping and falling of trees and tree branches and require less maintenance work. Panchayats and people should cooperate with the power department when they take up works to improve distribution.

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