The NCP Thursday claimed that rural areas in Maharashtra are facing extended power cuts every day because the coal supply meant for the state is being "diverted" to poll-bound Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh--all ruled by the BJP. Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in these three states over the next two months.
The Sharad Pawar-led party also demanded the resignation of Maharashtra Power Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule (BJP) over the power cuts, which the party leaders said are being imposed for 10-12 hours per day without prior announcements.
Contesting claims of Bawankule who had denied shortage of power, NCP spokesman Nawab Malik claimed that Maharashtra is currently reeling under power deficit of "3000 MW". Addressing a press conference here, Malik demanded Bawankule be sacked for his "failure" to handle the power deficit, which he said is compounded by a shortage of coal in all thermal stations of Maharashtra. Bawankule had Tuesday said the power load-shedding is likely to coincide with the upcoming festive season when the demand typically shoots up to 16,000 MW per day.
"But this time, due to the rise in demand, the actual requirement is around 20,000 MW," he had said while clarifying that there was no shortage of power. Malik claimed that none of the thermal power plants in the state is functioning to its fullest capacity due to shortage of coal. "The Maharashtra government is being remote-controlled from Delhi. The decisions regarding Maharashtra are being taken from Delhi."
"Over a month ago, Rajasthan was facing a power deficit of 2500 MW. Hence, to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the poll-bound state along with Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, the coal supply meant for Maharashtra has been diverted to these three states," he alleged.
The NCP leader further said that Maharashtra was short-changed by neighbouring Gujarat over the power supply. "Maharashtra is deprived of its share of 400 MW of electricity from the Sardar Sarovar dam," he said. Malik said, "Vishwas Pathak, who is the advisor to minister Bawankule and serving as an independent director in the state-run power transmission, distribution and generation companies, knew nothing about electricity and power generation".
Bawankule had said that his department had decided to reduce power supply in certain areas with a view that the measure will force defaulter consumers to pay their bills.
Malik demanded the state government declare the exact quantum of power deficit and release in advance the timings of the power cuts to be imposed in villages so that people will be spared of hardships. "An internal note of the Electricity department says the power demand has increased by 20 per cent and there is a deficit of 3000 MW. If this is true, make this information public and tell people how many hours they will face power shortage," Malik demanded.
The NCP leader claimed Maharashtra received only 30,000 tonnes of coal of the total requirement of 1.5 lakh tonnes. "Union Coal Minister Piyush Goyal says there is no shortage of coal if that is true then why Maharashtra is not getting sufficient supply of coal?" he questioned.
Malik demanded that load-shedding be stopped and coal supply regulated to all thermal power plants in the state. He said women and youth wings of his party have organised protests against load-shedding on October 12 across the state.
(With inputs from agencies.)