One of the most heartening news items to have hit the headlines on Thursday was a statement by Pallav Lochan Das, Minister of State for Power, that efforts are on to make Assam power sufficient by the year 2018. Considering the power scerio of the State which generates only about 250 MW of power (down from 514 MW in 2001), this is very encouraging news indeed. However, one cannot afford to ignore similar promises about steady power supply in the State made earlier as well. It will be recalled that in 2004, Pradyut Bordoloi, then Power Minister of Assam, had made a PowerPoint presentation at the Administrative Staff College Auditorium in Guwahati where he had assured a select audience that by the year 2006 Assam’s chronic problem of power shortage would be permanently solved. But even by the year 2009, the power situation in Assam had actually got much worse. The Karbi-Langpi project added about 100 MW to Assam’s total generation of power that had declined to about 100 MW. It may not be a very profitable exercise to dwell on the circumstances that led to Assam’s drastic reduction in power generation from 514 MW to only about 100 MW. It is in the context of this dismal scerio of power generation that one reads about promises to make the State totally self-sufficient in power by the year 2018. There is bound to be some pessimism about such promises. The Minister of State for Power could not have overlooked the fact that Assam’s present power crisis has arisen from a complete lack of power planning for about four decades. And it is this experience of callous negligence of very vital matters by former rulers that turally makes people rather sceptical about fresh promises made by our rulers about power generation in the State. There should never be any reason for any government to fail citizens in vital matters like availability of steady power. Such failures arise mainly from having failed to plan in advance for the anticipated growth in population.
The failure to provide adequate power for all citizens of the State constitutes a very basic breach of responsibilities to the people that senior bureaucrats are guilty of. This basic breach of responsibility arises from a total disrespect of and disregard for citizens in a democracy. Actually, the generation of an additiol 660 MW of power in order to make the State sufficient in power by 2018 is not a Herculean task. Up to a point, it is the matter of reviving some of the power projects that have been allowed to lapse for no valid reason except inefficiency and the ibility to ensure an uninterrupted availability of fuel for our thermal projects. The government’s failure to commission the Margherita and Chandrapur power projects for years typifies its failure to discharge its responsibilities in the matter of power generation in the State. Such existing but unutilized sources of power generation have to be revived and easier modes of power generation like solar generation have to be fully explored. Apparently, Assam has the potential to generate 1.3 Giga watts (1,000 MW = 1 Giga watt) of solar power. Once we explore this potential to the hilt, Assam’s power problems may soon become a thing of the past. However, the newly constituted State government will have to take urgent measures to ensure that the total power potential of the State is fully utilized. Even though hydroelectric projects provide cheaper and cleaner electricity, their total capacity often falls far short of expectations during the dry months. As such, there is still a strong case for placing greater emphasis on thermal power projects that can be expected to generate electricity much closer to the installed capacity than in the case of hydel projects. If the State has any ambitions about any significant industrial development it has to take up efficient power generation as a major challenge. After all, the promise of employment to 26 lakh people cannot be honoured without industrial development, and obviously there can be no talk about industrialization without adequate power generation.