Eight years is what it has taken to spot the first signs of improvement in the energy sector in the state under Nitish Kumar’s stewardship as chief minister.
Nitish, who put the sector on the foreground of his government’s agenda at the start of his second stint, as chief minister in 2010, has been steadfast in his approach for supplying power to all by the end of 2015, when the Assembly elections are due.
Since his Independence Day speech delivered in 2012, Nitish has been saying that he would not seek votes in the next Assembly elections if he fails to bring substantial improvement on the power supply front. Nitish iterated his commitment this Independence Day.
The promise, which seemed hollow till a year ago, is now becoming, though slowly, a reality on every front — generation, transmission and distribution.
The eighth year of Nitish’s rule is considered significant vis-à-vis power supply when the state not only started supplying 2,000MW to 2,300MW against the peak summer demand of 3000MW, but had its first generation with the start of the 110MW Muzaffarpur Thermal Power Station (MTPS) unit.
Nitish, while attending a function organised to celebrate the power company’s first anniversary on November 2, said the power sector has “taken off” but was quick to add that it had not yet stabilised. “We have been able to supply 2,200MW in 2013 against 1,200MW in 2012,” says energy minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav.
In 2005, when Nitish took over the reins of the state, its (the state) generation was nil out of its total installed generation capacity of 480MW, excluding 55MW of hydel generation.
The state had four units of 110MW — two each at Barauni and Muzaffarpur thermal power stations.
By the end of November 2012, the state had not been able to add a single megawatt which, virtually, held back the process of industrialisation.
The start of the MTPS unit earlier this month has finally washed away that stigma.
Nitish said power availability would gradually grow and people would feel the change with better distribution and transmission.
Even people residing in small towns and villages have been experiencing much better power supply in the past six months.
“We have been getting 18 to 20 hours of power supply in Sitamarhi town for the past one-and-a-half months. Even my native village, Sasaula Kala, 20km from Sitamarhi town, has been getting 20 hours every day. Earlier, the town used to get six to seven hours of supply each day in winter and four to five hours of supply with poor voltage at other times,” said Balkrishna Singh, alias Munna Singh, of Sitamarhi district.
Sanjay Bhartiya, director of Dina Iron and Steel Ltd and Bihar Industries Association secretary-general, said power availability has increased to five to six hours in even smaller towns, 12 to 15 hours in bigger towns and 18-20 hours in cities like Muzaffarpur and Gaya.
“Now the power companies should focus on quality, quantity and cost aspect of the power sector, which must be nationally competitive in order to spur industrial development,” Bhartiya said.