November 7, 2007EconomyPublic Policy

An electrified state of affairs

Gujarat’s power sector is better than most Indian states

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

In the fifth instalment of the series on Tehelka’s dubious analysis of Gujarat’s economy, let’s look at what Shivam writes about the power sector:

The Gujarat government repeatedly advertises that it is the country’s only electricity surplus’ state, even selling power to neighbouring states. But the Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Limited said in April 2007 that the state was facing a shortfall of 900 mega - watts. While cities continue to get uninterrupted power, rural areas often face shortfalls. Many rural areas get only 4-5 hours of power supply a day, badly affecting irrigation during the sowing season. [Shivam Vij/Tehelka]

As Shivam concedes, urban areas already get uninterrupted power—no mean achievement in India. What he doesn’t mention is that Gujarat is the first of only five states to have achieved 100% rural electrification. The national average is only 44%. In a well-researched article in Business Line, Virendra Pandit writes people in most towns and cities have not known load-shedding or power cuts for a long time, although due to rise in demand during harvesting season, power supply is sometimes rationed in rural areas”. The complete picture is that there is some power rationing during peak periods in rural areas: often’ (according to Tehelka) or sometimes’ (according to Business Line) are subjective assessments. One objective fact, according to the state government’s socio-economic review for 2005-06 is that 9863 of the 18056 villages, or more than 50% of the total number, acquired access to continuous power supply in the between 2004-2006. And as the Business Line article suggests, there’s a lot of power in the pipeline.

But what about Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam’s statement about the 900 MW shortfall? Shivam doesn’t tell you the whole story. On April 7th this year, the Indian Express reported: A day after state was hit by severe power crisis with 900 MW power supply falling short after few power generating units at different plants failed to operate at full capacity level owing to technical problems, GUVNL authorities on Sunday refused to come out clear on the issue…It is noted that on Saturday, around 900 MW power shortages was reported when power generation units at Akrimota project, Vanakbori, Gandhinagar and Ukai power plants developed technical problems”. The shortfall was not due to lack of installed capacity, it was due to technical faults.

Seen in the context of the mess that most Indian states had made of the power industry over the last decade, Gujarat’s performance in the power sector is the real tehelka. But not the type that Tehelka would like.

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