This article was written for Niti Central. Reproducing it here.
Would the state be divided or not? Will the Congress buy peace with Jagan? When will Jagan come out of jail? Will TDP President, Chandrababu Naidu gain from his 114 day (and still counting) padayatra? Will PCC President buy peace with the AP CM? Will Cong-MIM rift affect peace in Hyderabad?
These and many such questions might dominate dining table discussions across the state, but come first week of the month - the only thing every single family dreads is the power bill. The power of woes in AP are not some recent random occurrence - they have been around in a sustained manner since nearly 2 years.
The woes first began in Aug-Sep 2011. There were production related issues (owing to strikes etc) and instead of trying to atleast resolve the issue, the AP government started imposing power cuts on hapless consumers. Matters did not improve even days after the strike was called off. Infact matters started to become worse, and the government increased the time of power cuts in the state. And when there was uproar from the hapless citizenry, we were given the ultimate explanation - the power situation is precarious in the entire country! A side note here: When the power scenario was "precarious" in the country, Sushil Kumar Shinde was the Power Minister!
But am being vague about these power cuts, so please allow me to give you some details on the timings. It started like this - 2 hours in cities, 4 hours in district HQ, 6 hours in municipalities 8 hours in mandal HQ and 12 hours in villages. In November 2011, it was emphatically announced that there will be no power for villages during the day time. We were also told that if "If any village gets supply for one or two hours during daytime now, it may be by mistake of the field staff."
And since then, the power cut times have been slowly increased by an additional 2 hours. So the state was facing power cuts for 4-14 hours. 4-14 hours per day! Thankfully, since October last these power cuts are not happening (for long hours) but we are being warned that the upcoming summer is going to bring back those haunted memories!
Domestic consumers will still survive these power cuts. What about industries? The power situation went so bad that the government, at one point of time had to tell industries to have a 4 day power holiday per week! That's right - industries were running only in 12 days per month! Their situation is still precarious. All small scale industries have been hit badly - since they cannot afford to have more man power than required for those 12 days, layoffs had to happen. And it takes no genius to understand that lesser number of working days leads to lesser production which leads to slower growth!
It was widely advertised that the farmers though are still getting 7 hours of power supply; that there would be no compromise on that aspect (even if others had to compromise massively). With a situation as precarious as this, it is anybody's guess if farmers were getting 7 hours of power supply too!
So now we have all sections of the society pretty much frustrated with long hours of power cut, for more than a year - unfortunately this situation did not receive as much attention in the "national media" as much as the TN power situation received, but that debate is not needed now.
I mentioned that these power cuts have come down since October, so you must be wondering what is all the fuss about now? Amidst all this, the government first increased the cost per unit. Understandable, since no increase has been effected since 2004. And before the hapless consumer could grasp the repercussions of this increase, another bombshell was dropped. A new concept called Fuel Surcharge Adjustment (FSA) was introduced! Many consumers were even unaware of what this FSA even meant - all we knew is that an inflated bill started showing up and we had no option but to pay. Simply put - the distribution companies are transferring the fuel charges incurred in 2009-2010 to the hapless consumer in 2012-2013. So even if one did not stay in that house in 2009-2010, one still has to bear the tax burden on electricity consumption that one was not responsible for!
Let's leave the jargon aside. A snapshot of two different bills from two different consumers in two different months! below:
Consumers plan for a monthly budget of Rs. 400- Rs. 500/- at the end of the month, a bill ends up at their home that says they hve to pay Rs. 1500! And this tax will be imposed till July 2013. So from October 2012 to July 2013, every single bill will have amounts that are 50-200% higher than the actual energy consumption bill. Explanations would not matter to small time consumers - to dish out Rs.1000-1500 instead of Rs. 450, all of a sudden is a burden many will find it difficult to take!
As if this was not enough, early this month, the state government was presented with proposals to effect another massive hike in the power tariff itself! The uproar amongst political circles and the local media must be seen to be believed. Entire local media dedicated front page space for about a week on this topic, detailing how the proposals will break our backs. Ministers themselves were strongly opposing these proposals (Congress has an amazing work culture, no?) - for now they have been put on hold but it wouldn't be long that another tarriff hike will be effected.
And worse of all, there have been no words of solace from the Chief Minister. All that we keep hearing from him is that the consumer has to bear this burden; we keep hearing that the power situation is precarious and the consumer has to support the government (as if we have a choice). Sometime in these 2 years, we were also told that the problem is because of Reliance also, but frankly will the consumer care?
So whilst the political unrest and machinations make good dining table discussion points, the woeful power management in this state is what will spell doom for the Congress government.