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Centre comes to the rescue of Maharashtra plagued by power shortage

Sunday 15 May 2005, by SHARMA*Kalpana

After meetings in New Delhi, the State Government has managed to scrape together an additional 610 MW, says power board chairman

MUMBAI: Central assistance will help Maharashtra meet part of its acute power deficit. After meetings in New Delhi with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and others, the Government has scraped together an additional 610 MW, Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) Chairman Jayant Kawale, told The Hindu on Saturday.

The State has been facing an acute crunch in the last month with the deficit touching 4,000 MW on some days during peak time. The power cuts, for four hours in urban areas and nine hours in rural areas, led to violent agitations in several cities including Pune, Nagpur and Akola where electricity workers were attacked and MSEB offices damaged.

Sources of help

Over the last 10 days, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Energy Minister Dilip Walse-Patil and Mr. Kawale were in Delhi trying to work out a short-term solution. The Centre has agreed that Maharashtra can get 300 MW from the two National Thermal Power Corporation plants in Kovas and Gandhar in Gujarat. These naphtha-based units will convert to gas in a few days, making available the additional supply to Maharashtra.

Crisis to ease

The State also expects to get in a week around 125 MW from the fourth unit of the Tarapur Atomic Power Station, which went critical on March 6.

Mr. Kawale said the unit was expected to supply another 125 MW within a fortnight, taking the total up to 250 MW. The total installed capacity of the unit is 540 MW. However, the Nuclear Power Corporation had yet to firm up a schedule by when the unit would supply power to the MSEB.

The Centre also decided to allot 60 MW from an unallocated quota to Maharashtra. Chhattisgarh also claimed this quantum. But, Mr. Kawale said, the Centre could decide which State should be given the quantum in an urgency.

Mr. Kawale does not expect that power cuts, causing anger among consumers, can be reduced immediately. However, he is confident that the crisis will ease within the next three or four weeks with the advent of monsoon. It will bring down the demand for power even if the supply remains static or increases only marginally with the latest allocations from the Centre.

On the Government’s decision to stop free electricity to farmers from June 1, Mr. Kawale said it would not make much impact on the State’s power supply. The scheme had been operative for only a few months. Had it continued, there would have been a long-term negative impact.

Earlier this week, the Government decided to waive electricity duty to industries, which have captive power plants, to encourage them to use their own generation units rather than draw power from the MSEB.

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