Even after 'complete' retoration of power after the massive blackouts, some 300 million people lack direct access to electricity. Where there is power, it is intermittent and marred by voltage fluctuations.
The UPA II government is potentially seeing the lights go out on its 'efforts' to put the economy back on track to stratospheric growth. Infrastructure is a major reason why India lags behind other developing countries in terms of attracting investment. The other being regulatory slipknots that manage to discourage any potential investment almost head-on.
State governments in India have the delinquent habit of promising subsidized power for the agricultural sector. This is a major drag on the already overstretched power sector. As a result of this state distribution companies (discoms) are racking up losses and have no capital to purchase power or initiate efficiency measures.
Government departments are notorious for non-payment of power bills. Everybody needs to pay, and everybody is accountable. In a country as large as India, even a small percentage of negligence translates to losses on a massive scale.
Add to this, the 900-pound gorilla of power theft, something that is nonchalantly condoned in states like Uttar Pradesh in the hope of securing votes. But what explains the blatant pilferage of power during festivities, elections and general public gatherings? What about the rampant powerjacking in rural areas, to which the governments consistently turn a blind eye? Power theft is as common a phenonmenon in rural India as it is in the country's bustling cities.
Of course, this is not sustainable.
It is estimated that around 30 percent of India's power is lost in distribution wastages - amounting to around INR70,000 crore. There is hope that smart transmission and distribution (T&D) technologies can help cut the losses to a great deal while also bringing in peak-hour efficiency. But, implementation has been slow and it requires capital which the state powercos are severely short on.
Need to act, fast. One way of probably going about this would be to do what the Andhra Pradesh government did to check power theft. It introduced fast track courts to deal with such cases. The state of Maharashtra followed suit. The writing is clearly on the wall for the government, either cut out distribution losses or sustain them with massive new capacity.
Production shortages due to fuel shortages
India's breathtaking growth over the past two decades has created an unquenchable thirst for power. Government policymaking has not kept pace with this massive demand. Power plants idle away across the country over issues regarding the environment or resources.