By Arushi Bahuguna
We all know the frustration of a power cut — to put our lives on hold for no fault of ours. It makes us curse the government and wonder whether things will ever change. Change is what all politicians promise, but few achieve. An India without power cuts is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised, but can it be done?
A recent news shows that the government’s 24×7 Power for All goal can indeed become a reality. One of Haryana’s power distribution companies has started functioning properly— from a loss of ₹471 crore last year, it has now posted a profit of ₹78 crore. How did Haryana’s power company do it?
The answer lies in a scheme launched by the Modi government called UDAY — Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana.
DISCOM is short for power distribution company— that delivers electricity to our homes. DISCOMs were in desperate need of help because they have been running badly for years.
Like Haryana’s DISCOM, losses across India run in crores, totalling to ₹4 lakh crore.
This scary amount is a huge burden on India’s power sector and it’s holding India back from becoming a developed nation. To solve this crisis, the UDAY scheme attacks the root cause of the losses, and brings in strict rules so that losses are gradually eliminated.
Profit-making DISCOMs mean we all pay less money in our electricity bills and also get timely, good quality power. When UDAY is fully implemented by 2019, India’s energy sector can be freed from losing Rs 1.8 trillion every year. We can only imagine the impact this huge saving will have on our economy.
So What Is UDAY All About?
To decode the logic behind UDAY’s magic, we have to understand a few things about India’s power sector.
The companies which bring power to our homes—DISCOMs— have suffered from horrible management. To give a picture of what a bad DISCOM looks like — corruption leads to purchase of low quality machinery which naturally kills efficiency. Add to this the time of elections, when politicians fool the people by promising “free” or cheap electricity.
Since nothing comes for free, politicians force the DISCOMs into loans and debts. The losses keep collecting, and cripple the ability to provide electricity to the people. Here is where UDAY comes in.
Under UDAY, for the first time it has been made clear that any loss that a DISCOM suffers, is a loss of the state government. The states will have to take responsibility for the loss, since it is their failure to run the DISCOMs properly.
The political ploy of governing poorly and then hiding the loss in the DISCOM’s account books is now impossible. UDAY couples such strict rules with actionable agendas on how each state can turn around its losses. UDAY’s mantra for profit is not rocket science. It’s simply focused on efficiency.
DISCOMs have to commit to reducing their losses within fixed time frames. When the aim is efficiency, they will have to buy high quality tools, collect bills properly, and stop power theft. With UDAY, the state governments and DISCOMs have been made to sign on paper that they will have to do their duty— deliver uninterrupted power.
So Why Did Most Of The States Say Yes To UDAY’s Tough Terms?
Before the Modi government, there were plans to solve this power crisis, but states did not accept them. Previous plans failed because they did not understand the problems of the states.
The uniqueness of UDAY is that Centre did not dictate terms, but talked to the state governments, and together they chalked out the plan. Since electricity is a concurrent subject, both Centre and states have power over power. Sitting at the same table and discussing issues made it possible to come up with practical solutions which are acceptable to everyone.
So when a journalist asked Power Minister Piyush Goyal, why the states will accept UDAY, he smiled (partly from the pleasure of quoting The Godfather) “I gave them an offer that they cannot refuse”.
It’s funny because UDAY is far from a dictator-like approach. The beauty of UDAY is that even when it is a strict set of terms, the plan have been framed by the people who have to follow it. It is like a bitter pill that the patient agrees to swallow in order to recover.
With Haryana leading the way, other states will be encouraged to perform as well, and hopefully, we’ll soon see an India where the light never goes out.
Image Credits: Google Images
Arushi is an English literature student with a passion for politics. When not reading novels, she likes watching political speeches, and decoding the facts thrown in with the eloquence. She is interested in seeing how India attacks energy poverty and also transitions to the renewable energy era.
Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.