For over half-a-century, the people of Assam have had nothing more than idle promises about how the power scerio in the State was just about to take a turn for the better. In fact, if the power scerio in the State had been any better than it is, we would have had many more industries to ensure much speedier development of the State. Unfortutely, our leaders have had to be content with idle promises both about development as a whole and a speedy improvement in the power scerio. This is largely because of our well-known apathy for any kind of real work. As a result, we have a situation where we have to buy electricity from other States instead of doing anything tangible to generate the required quantum of power within the State. Anyone who is aware of what is reasoble per capita consumption of electricity in the 21st century, will be appalled to learn that the peak power demand for the entire State is no more than just 1,500 MW. What is even more intriguing is that Assam’s present daily generation capacity of electricity is no more than about 250 MW—a mere one-sixth of our peak power demand.
Over the years, the most colourful aspect of the power scerio in the State has been the tall promises about the rosy prospects of highly augmented power generation in the near future. One recalls how in 2004, just three years after the first leg of Tarun Gogoi’s 15-year-long rule, the then Power Minister of the State had promised that there would be no shortage of power in Assam after 2006. Thirteen years have gone by since that promise was made. It is interesting to look at the power scerio of Assam since then. At that point of time, the total installed capacity for the State was around 514 MW. There was a serious decline of power generation in the State after that until at some point Assam was generating no more than about 150 MW. It is only after the Kopili hydel power project was commissioned that we had about 100 MW of additiol power. That is what adds up to the 250 MW of power generated in Assam today.
The kind of information that the State government has assiduously tried to hide from the people is that the generation of no more than 250 MW of electricity is a kind of joke for a State of the size of Assam with a population exceeding three crore. So is the peak hour demand of no more than 1,500 MW. No wonder, there is a startling lack of industrial development in the State. The electricity generated within Assam is not even enough to keep all lights burning and fans turning. Where is the question of ensuring any kind of industrial development in the State that calls for huge quantities of power generated within the State and not purchased from other States? And considering that the priorities regarding the availability of electrical power for the air-conditioners of ministers and senior bureaucrats is predetermined, the common people know how to react to promises made by organizations like Power Grid Corporation of India Limited even when they relate to a Rs 8,300 crore project jointly funded by the World Bank and the Union government. After half-a-century of tall talk in the future tense and no work, people know very well that the State’s acute power shortage will continue, power tariffs will keep increasing every year and whatever little power is available in the State will go to run air-conditioners for our rulers. The need of the hour is a crusade for efficient supply of electricity and a ratiol level of power tariff that is based on legitimate costs of generating power and not on the funds required to take care of the accumulated losses incurred by the Assam Power Development Corporation Limited (APDCL) over the years due to inefficient magement of power generation in the State. We have supported crusades for far less important issues. In the 21st century, the availability of electricity at reasoble cost ought to be deemed the most vital issue for everyone.