Transforming State’s Energy Landscape
Power crisis appears to deepening in Nagaland with outages becoming the order of the day. While few hours of power supply daily is a luxury in many villages in rural areas, few hours of outage in urban areas is like inviting the wrath of the people. But ironically, people living in the urban areas are in a way responsible for disruption of electricity distribution in the state and rampant power outages. Power department officials have been complaining time and again about the menace of rampant power theft, especially in Dimapur but it falls on deaf ears. The city is said to be consuming 50% of the state’s total power consumption but the department has lamented its inability to collect even 50% revenue due to power theft, which results in regular power cuts in the district. The government has also lamented that the state spend more than INR 200 crore every year in purchasing power from other states. Citizens have been repeatedly requested to pay electricity bills regularly so that the concerned department could provide uninterrupted power supply but nothing much has changed over the years. Both the complaints about irregular power supply and huge revenue leakage due to power theft remain. Who is to be blamed? And is there any way to solve this power crisis?
For a tangible positive outcome, both the public and the Power department have to work together. Passing the buck won’t help. The officials of Power department had recently said that it would be forced to “pull the administrative mechanism” to tackle the issue of rampant power theft in Dimapur by bringing in the police forces to take action on defaulters as per the Electricity Act, 2003. While such an action is one of the ways to solve the issue, the more enduring one would be for the public to voluntarily the pay bills regularly based on one’s usage. If the citizens can’t do that, the problem they face is of their own making. They should be willing to pay for uninterrupted power supply. On the other hand, the government department should introduce ways for consumers to pay bills at the comfort of their homes from their mobile phones or other gadgets. The concerned department too should ensure that bills are generated on time so that consumers can make payments. To address commercial losses due to revenue leakage, some states have started installing smart prepaid meters. Nagaland government too can employ a similar approach to optimise billing and collection efficiency, and curb power theft. Procuring lakhs of smart prepaid meters will need huge investment but the returns will be big as well. Once implemented, it will transform the state’s energy landscape.