Whatever they say, one of the crowning achievements of the previous Congress regime remains the reforms in the power sector and regular power supply to the consumers. There should not be any doubt in it. What matters now is the current scenario of power supply in the state after the BJP led alliance took over.
Thangmeiband MLA Khumukcham Joykishan had raised the issue of frequent power outages in recent times in the just concluded state assembly session. On the other hand, Power Minister Th Biswajit Singh claimed that the present government is providing 24X7 power supply in Imphal West and East which is not true as there are power outages almost every day in Imphal city and outlying areas.
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He however admitted that power tripping occurs sometimes as most of the present systems are outdated and the Centre has sanctioned Rs 395 crore for upgradation of the outdated power supply systems, and Rs 1,870-crore project has been proposed under RDSS for uninterrupted power supply in Manipur.
Ever since the reforms in power sector, pre-paid meters were introduced while the erstwhile Power department or Electricity department as it is commonly known was bifurcated and two entities under the name and style of Manipur State Power Company Ltd (MSPCL) and Manipur State Power Distribution Company Ltd (MSPDCL) was created. While MSPCL is in charge of transmission, MSPDCL handles the distribution part.
The Power Minister said its systems are outdated, but did not spell out in which sector the problem of outdated systems is happening. Now and then, when the consumers complain about the power outages the two companies are blaming each other. As we understand, there has been a huge infusion of investment from the Centre in the power sector and also there have been complaints of scandals running into crores of rupees, besides the question of whether system updates are taking according to schedule.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister N Biren Singh said that the state has been doling out Rs 300 crores every year to buy power and provide regular power supply to the consumers. He also said that the state buys power at the rate of Rs 10 per unit while it is selling it to the consumers at the subsidized rate of Rs 6 per unit.
Still, it is not a new thing and in the welfare model of governance subsidies are provided in most services or sectors. However, ever since the new government led by BJP took over the reins of power there has been an increase in power tariff twice while there is a fall in consumer satisfaction.
As the pre-paid system is there, the consumers are paying regularly and, mind you, in advance which means that the consumers are also contributing to the fund for purchasing power. Out of a total of 5.6 lakh power consumers, 4.10 lakh are pre-paid consumers.
Now is the time to come clean and to come up with a white paper on power sector reforms with an update on investment vis-à-vis performance to boost consumer confidence. On the other front, the newly appointed Chairman of MSPDCL Tongbram Robindro has taken charge on Wednesday although everyone is in the dark as to what the Chairman is supposed to do or function while the Power Minister is very much there.
Is it simply ornamental or supposed to function like a Minister of State? Well, before the Thanga MLA was appointed the representative from Khurai assembly constituency and present PHED minister L Sushildro was the chairman of MSPDCL.