Herald: South Goa’s electricity short circuited

South Goa’s electricity short circuited

02 Jun 2018 04:47am IST
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02 Jun 2018 04:47am IST
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Pre-monsoon showers have exposed the weakness of the Electricity Department. PRATIK PARAB travels around Salcete and neighbouring villages, visits the feeders and discovers the roots of the power failure

The Electricity Department of Goa has come back in the news for all the wrong reasons just after two pre-monsoon showers. Erratic power cuts all over the state, starting from Calangute, Porvorim, Sattari, and Nerul to Canacona, Margao, Nessai and Quepem, have forced people to abuse and also curse the Power Department on several occasions.

An honest official of the Electricity Department has claimed that there is not one person in the department who is working for the betterment of the State but for self betterment. The result of the lack of belonging is seen all over Goa. Some showers, gusty winds and the following tree falls sent the entire State into darkness.

There are villages in Goa that have not been restored power supply not only for one or two days but at least for 3 to 4 days in total. The showers have affected the power supply even after Margao being totally underground wiring compliant. There are frequent power outages, sometimes 10 or 20 times in a day.

The investigation into this entire matter brings the fact to the fore that the department has been functioning in isolation and has been the most irresponsible when it comes to providing services to the people.

The Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar had earlier informed that the Chief Minister had sanctioned Rs 700 cr to Power Department for strengthening the infrastructural requirements of the Department particularly for new substations. Rs150 to 200 cr per substation will now be spent which include one in Tuem one in Navelim and also one on the Kadamba plateau. Three lakh electricity meters replacement tender will also be out soon, the Minister was quoted as saying.

However, all that swanky expense has not and will not put in the sense of responsibility and belonging towards the consumers in the minds of the department, feels a consumer.

The minister said that the Government is going to solve the problems phase wise related to electricity in Goa and it will take time and money. He had also said that day to day problems will be taken up for solutions.  

The pre-monsoon showers revealed the preparedness of the department to tackle the problems of power cuts. The effect of the constant power cuts was seen in the form of anger amongst people and even elected representatives. Coastal areas of Colva, Benaulim and others were into the grip of power cuts during the entire month of May. These power cuts revealed that it’s not just power cuts but there is no staff or basic infrastructure with the Electricity Department to repair minuscule problems like tree falls or disconnections. It was a similar problem with the Margao town which was suffering due to the breakdown of the Xeldem feeder. The problem has only been increasing every day with no respite.

Highly placed sources at the Department revealed that out of the two Verna underground express cables, one is faulty. There are three overhead lines too of which one is supplied to Fatorda, one to Benaulim and one to KRC substation. The coastal villages of Benaulim, Colva, Seraulim and several others were supplied by the cable. Internal sources informed that there is no seriousness amongst the second line of Assistant and Junior Engineers of Electricity in South Goa with exception of some officials. These officials don’t just ignore calls of the people but also ignore the calls of their own seniors to take guidance on the troubleshooting. Simple actions like putting entire load of a substation on one line and ripping off the entire line have been reportedly the acts of the staff of electricity.

There has been no interaction of the officials amongst themselves even after their problems are similar and concurrent to all areas. There is no underground cable fault finding machine with the S-Goa Electricity Department and now crores of rupees spent on the cables has gone totally in waste. The decision of having underground cables has not done any good to the people of Goa and this was endorsed by the high level officials of Electricity years ago. The officials had said that rather than having underground cabling, if half the money was spent on the overhead cables the distribution system could have been more efficient.

Two old lines which come from Xeldem to supply power to Margao have gone bad. There are two underground lines which were paid attention earlier and the overhead lines were ignored. The result is the overhead lines have gone from bad to worse and now even the underground lines have got faulty over time.

Pegging to the faults and coupled with rains wards of Colva village, a majority of the areas were in the dark for two days without electricity and even were left in the dark during night. When the people asked why there is no restoration at night the officials discovered that there was a small problem on the line feeding the power. "The problem was rectified in three minutes. We had complained in the night at 12 am and the staff repaired the problem at 4 am. This is frustrating," said Judith Almeida, Convenor of Colva Civic and Consumer Forum. "Power doesn't even remain for one hour and we have to take the brunt all day and night," added Judith. Officials later informed the people that there is only one service van to cater to the entire areas of Colva, Gandaulim, Seraulim and Sernabatim and it can’t cover all these areas. People are now feeling hopeless regarding the services of the Electricity Department and are further angered by the non response of officials to the complaints of the people.

Villagers of Colva complained that the officials like the Junior Engineer and the Assistant Engineers have been most uncooperative and have never informed the people about the problems.

It was a similar problem in Margao as the power supply to the town wasn't stable for at least 5 to 6 hours on Tuesday. The officials said that the line in Xeldem was faulty and the supply was cut from there. However, listening to these Xeldem line errors for quite some time it was later revealed by some authorities that two lines feeding power from Xeldem have got completely old and need urgent replacement.

The Chief Engineer of South Goa Jose D'Mello who is on a leave, said: "The problem of Colva is that there are two underground cables coming from Verna and one of these is faulty. There are two overhead lines coming and supplying power to Benaulim and other areas. The staff did an error and put the entire load on a single line which worsened the problem and delayed the restoration".

Panchas and Residents of Rumdamol, Davorlim in the last week of May met the Assistant Engineer of the Electricity Department and complained of frequent power cuts. This discussion revealed another problem of the supply of electricity. It was revealed by the assistant engineer for the area that there are places which have not been revised for electricity load for decades together. There are too many rented households in a single house and they are using a single phase connection which is overburdening the transformers. The Department has conducted no study to find the loads of different areas and one small spike or change in supply has been sending thousands of households in dark.

Several people from Salcete have met their Assistant Engineers and given the fact that there are single phase connections and squeezing out power from the main source, the Electricity Department has never been able to measure the exact load of the consumption in these areas.

Reliable sources from the Department have revealed that situation is bound to continue throughout the Monsoons as the very systemic and administrative issues that surround the functioning of the entire department have gone haywire with no fixing of responsibility.

Incidents of trees falling on electric overhead power lines at Palolem and other areas of Canacona too have resulted in damages to the electricity alignments and loss of power for hours.

However, the Sao Jose De Areal village was the worst hit in this scheme of things and obviously when power wasn’t restored for 48 hours or more, ruckus broke out at the Electricity Sub Station office of Sao Jose De Areal after angry residents from the village came to question the staff on the reasons for failure to restore power.

Areas of Ramnagari, Mugalli, Nessai, Areal, Padribhat had been in dark for over two days during the pre-monsoon arrival showers. There was no restoration of power and no information being passed on from the Assistant and the Junior Engineer regarding the loss of power. The people alleged that their power supply had abruptly stopped at 2 am on the night of Wednesday. The Electricity officials said that some fuses had given way. However, people got angry after the officials couldn't restore power even after 18 hours of waiting. A villager told "We attempted to call the Junior Engineer and Assistant Engineer here. Both have kept their phones off which has angered the people" he said.

The people held the Assistant Engineer and other officials in their offices responsible for the power outage and demanded an answer. The people said that they had individually given 100's of complaints since the night they lost power. The officials, however, gave an excuse saying they are understaffed, they don't have vehicle and also helplessly informed of having no Ladder to climb and repair the faults. People have claimed that this is a daily routine and their village gets ignored all the time.

The Former Power Minister Digambar Kamat had an answer to the complaint of the department being under staffed. Digambar Kamat told that the Electricity Department has not been using their staff optimally since a long time now. The Department is tendering every small work instead of doing it in house. The department has enough staff to take care of the problems that occur day today. But all the works are tendered and money is spent unnecessarily. "Since the underground cabling work will complete the need of staff during power outage or the cutting of trees is not going to arrive. This is a time where the department has to put their staff to optimum use," said Kamat while claiming that they are yet to utilise their staff resources to full potential.

Digambar also revealed that the machine that the Department had earlier to find the fault of the underground cable has broken down and decommissioned. Hence there is a situation where in the staff of overhead are working on underground cable complaints and the ones who were trained for underground have been transferred elsewhere.

Sources at the Department revealed that nowadays since the machine to find fault of underground cable is broken down, the work of the same is outsourced and the contractor has been fleecing the department for finding faults. The department has been paying huge sums to the tune of Rs 40,000 for finding faults of the cables and is not making an economical choice of using their own machine and staff.  

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