Ensure power supply at all polling stations

In Tamil Nadu, for instance, the demand is on a steady rise, setting a new record of 454 million units on April 30.
A polling booth being prepared during the first phase of Lok Sabha elections in Puducherry.
A polling booth being prepared during the first phase of Lok Sabha elections in Puducherry. File Photo | Sriram R, EPS

As the world’s largest electoral juggernaut moves into the third phase amid an alarming heat wave, power outages have become commonplace across the country. Rising temperatures may have kept a section of voters from exercising their democratic right, but the attendant spike in power demand has raised some other difficult questions. India’s electricity consumption is estimated to have surged 11 percent to 144 billion units in April, putting a heavy load on the distribution grid. And it is likely to go through the roof in May.

Political accountability is on everyone’s mind at election time. Power distribution being a state subject, state governments are trying their best to avoid disruptions for the fear of a backlash. But in doing so, the states are staring at huge losses as they are forced to buy power at exorbitant rates to match the demand. In some regions where the voting has ended, power outages have become a regular nuisance. The utilities blame it on the unexpected rise in demand and cite two obvious reasons—more air-conditioners and industrial growth. In Tamil Nadu, for instance, the demand is on a steady rise, setting a new record of 454 million units on April 30.

On the electoral front, despite a diktat from the Election Commission, there are reports of supply disruption at some polling stations as well as strong rooms designated for storing election equipment. According to the commission’s guidelines, the state-owned power utilities are supposed to ensure continuous supply at all polling stations and strong rooms where the electronic voting machines would be stored until June 4. The disruptions interrupted camera surveillance at places, which in turn led to protests from political parties over a potential breach of security. This should be avoided at any cost.

Power generation, which dropped sharply during the pandemic and subsequently reported a steady increase, needs to be pushed up through amiable policies. With a water crisis looming large, several hydel power projects have been performing below par. It is expected that the demand would spurt every year with the growing population and industrialisation. The existing infrastructure—including transformers, lines and poles—needs to be strengthened so that it can manage the overload. A delay in reinforcing the infrastructure will not only impact the people at large, but also cripple India’s economic growth.

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