The thunder storm early Thursday morning caused some damage in the State, not much, but it managed to expose how unprepared the Electricity Department in Goa is to meet the monsoon that will be upon the State a few weeks from now. Parts of Goa, villages across the State including areas in Porvorim and Taleigao, went without electricity for hours. At other places, Margao included, there were constant outages. In South Goa villages fed by the substation at Sao Jose de Areal went without power for almost two days, it was a good 44 hours before power was restored, during which time a small group of people laid siege to the power station demanding that electricity be restored. There was even a symbolic candlelight protest held to highlight the issue.
A good 44 hours without electricity because of a minor thunderstorm announces loudly and clearly as to just how inefficiently the Power Department is run in the State.
Explaining the reason for the outages, Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar said that it was power transformers, transmitter transformers, poles and overhead cables that were most affected by the stormy weather. He admitted on Friday that some areas were still without electricity and that it would be restored by that evening. Chief Electrical Engineer (CEC) Neelkanth Reddy too admitted that it was due to the showers and strong winds that tree branches fell on the overhead lines, causing disruption in power supply across the State.
The very similar explanations given by the Power Minister and the Chief Electrical Engineer call for a review of the power transmission system in the State. They also underline the urgency of opting for underground cabling across all of Goa so that power transmission is not affected by minor thunderstorms and trees falling on overhead wires. The excuse of a large investment required for underground cabling and hence the delay in taking the cable below the ground does not stand, as this one storm has caused the department an estimated loss of Rs 25 crore to Rs 30 crore. This is a figure stated by the Minister, and could even rise once the repair works are taken up. Is it advisable to bear a loss this huge every time the wind blows at a high speed? Or should a one-time investment in laying underground cables ensure lesser maintenance and repair costs?
While the Power Minister and the officials of the department deliberate on these questions, the power disruption and the reasons proffered for it, give consumers the right to seek answers from the department as to their efficiency. Most importantly as to, where is the improved infrastructure? And how is the increased tariff being utilized in giving consumers a better service? Neither of these were visible last week when the pre-monsoon thunderstorm that lasted under an hour exposed the department’s failings.
The Electricity Department has become quite adept at shocking its consumers with increased tariffs and erroneous bills. The complaints of these come from across the State and are legion. This is one department that draws more complaints than compliments. The regular extra that the department collects through Fuel Power Purchase & Cost Adjustment (FPPCA) charges have also not been accepted by the people, who have reason to complain of not receiving adequate quality service for the charges imposed.
The Department needs to be revamped totally – electrified to serve the people – and that can only be done by a Minister who can inspire change and bring the best out of the employees. It is when there will come a change at the top, that those who serve below will make the change to give of their best.