Saturday, April 11, 2009

Empty promises, as Gaya voters live in ‘lantern age’

Gaya (Bihar), April 11 (IANS) For 30 long years candidates kept promising that the power situation will improve in Bihar’s Gaya town. They no longer do so, knowing the empty promise will only irritate voters.

Residents complain that electricity is a luxury in Gaya, a pilgrimage centre for Hindus and Buddhists alike and located about 100 km from Patna.

Shakeela Khatoon, who lives in the Gewal Bigha area in the more upmarket part of the town, is bitter.

“We live in the lantern age.” she said. “We have three lanterns in regular use. There is hardly a night when we don’t light the lanterns. The electricity mostly fails.”

Even in the run up to the last state assembly elections, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) nominee in this area promised better power situation in Gaya town. But in over three years, the situation has only got worse.

“It is common here to spend hot and humid summer nights without power,” a bitter Khatoon told IANS. “If there is power at night during summer, it is considered a luxury.”

In the nearby neigbourhood of Rampur, Manisha Sinha curses her decision to force her husband to construct a new house with all their savings and settle down in Gaya.

“It was a wrong decision. We were confident the power supply would improve but nothing has changed. Most residents either use lantern or lamp. Some are using battery-operated emergency lights,” she said.

The energy department says Bihar faces a deficit of 400-500 MW of power a day and that the situation is likely to worsen with the onset of summer if additional power is not made available.

Bihar does not produce even 100 MW a day, India’s only large state to face such a predicament. The government of Nitish Kumar blames the previous Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) government for the mess.

Bihar is almost totally dependent on the central grid for power. The state needs 1,600-1,800 MW of power a day but gets 700-800 MW from the central pool.

“This should be the main issue during the election,” says bureaucrat Munna Singh, a resident of Nai Godam locality. “Instead, politicians are wooing voters on caste lines.”

Gaya goes to the polls April 16. The town is Bihar’s second largest educational hub after Patna, and the power crisis has hit hard the student community.

Dinesh Yadav, a college student in his early 20s, says: “I failed to watch cricket on TV. We pay Rs.30 per hour for surfing the Internet, three times as much as in Delhi and twice the rate in Patna, and all because the cyber cafes have to be run on generators.”

Sanjay Kumar, another resident, said people had lost hope of getting power. “Thanks to uncertain power supply, kerosene oil sells at Rs.40 per litre.”

The situation is precarious in villages. They hardly get any power even during the day.

It is not unusual to experience day-long power cuts in most of Bihar’s 38 districts. People in small towns and district headquarters are considered lucky because they have electricity for four to six hours a day.

(Imran Khan can be contacted at

No comments: