Boys use the torchlight of a mobile phone to study at the State Library in Dhanbad on Thursday afternoon. Picture by Gautam Dey
More than 15 lakh residents of Dhanbad district are grappling with an acute power crisis for over a week now after Jharkhand Urja Vikas Nigam Limited (JUVNL), formerly Jharkhand State Electricity Board, scaled down supply.
The situation is most crippling in the twin towns of Dhanbad and Jharia, where several pockets, which are solely dependent on the state power board, are getting electricity for only 10 hours a day.
In most households, water pumps cannot be operated, children are not in a position to study in the absence of light while a peaceful night’s sleep seems a long way off. In some areas like Hirapur, shopkeepers have been compelled to shut down their establishments for a major part of the day.
Sanjay Kumar, a cyber café owner at Hirapur’s Vinod Market who also deals in photocopy, e-ticketing and other businesses, could not hold back his exasperation.
“It seems that we are living in a remote rural area. At present, we are getting only eight hours of power a day, which is not sufficient to charge the battery and the UPS doesn’t work properly. For how long can we operate generators when the diesel prices are so high? Keeping the shop closed is definitely a better option,” Kumar said.
No less angry was Rinku Mishra, a housewife of Jharia.
“My two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, who just started attending school, could not attend a single class for more than a week now. We can’t sleep at night as the inverter exhausts after running for eight hours while we are facing power cuts for more than 14 hours a day,” she said.
General manager of Dhanbad area of JUVNL Subhas Singh, however, passed the buck to Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) that supplies power to several areas of Jharkhand. “DVC has not been supplying enough power for over a week now. But in the past four-five days, the situation has worsened and supply has been reduced to 14 hours a day,” he said.
Singh further went on to add that while the minimum requirement for the district was around 190MW a day, they were getting less than 140MW.
“The short supply is also hampering water supply work by Mada as the water treatment plant cannot be operated continuously. We have raised the issue with DVC on several occasions, the latest at a meeting with chief engineer of Central Load Dispatch (CLD) on Wednesday, but they are blaming poor production at DVC plants in Chandrapura and Patratu,” Singh said.
When contacted, DVC’s chief manager (CLD) B. Pan said: “We are not getting enough coal from BCCL and ECL and hence, production of electricity has taken a beating at our plants.”
In contrast, colliery areas like BCCL colonies spread across 12 operational areas, including Barora, Katras, Sijua, Govindpur, Block II, Kusunda, Putki Balihari, West Jharia, Lodna, East Jharia, Chanch Victoria and Bastacola, are getting smooth supply. Ditto for the residential hubs of Tata Steel at Jamaboba and Sijua, and Steel Authority of India Limited’s colony at Chasnala.
This prompted president of Federation of Dhanbad Zila Chamber of Commerce and Industry Rajiv Sharma to sniff a ploy. “It seems that the power board is creating an artificial crisis so that it can effect a hike in tariff. We have no option but to take to the streets as the situation is getting out of hand with every passing day,” Sharma said.