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Politics And Economics Of Power Outage (Load-shedding)

Issue January 2017

Politics And Economics Of Power Outage (Load-shedding)

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


Speaking to the reporter of the Radio Nepal, one of the businesspersons at the Biratnager Industrial corridor has said that after the smooth supply of power, the industrial corridor has saved NPR 30 million worth of diesel per day used for generating power, the 7 PM morning news of the Radio Nepal stated on January 7, 2017. Previously, one of the officials of the Federation of Nepal Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) had said that within two months of the smooth supply of power the industrial sector had saved NPR 16 billion worth of diesel. So, anybody could guess how the so-called politicians claiming to be the nationalists had sold Nepal to the foreign country for their personal benefits when the State administration was in their hands causing so much troubles from cutting power to the rest of the country for supplying to a few industries 24 hours a day.


Immediately after taking office, Minister for Energy Janardan Sharma (no matter which party he belongs to) has taken initiatives to end the power outage in the country. Initially, it was unbelievable in the country where common folks used to have power supply only for a half-day, would end the power-cut. However, the minister has proved that it is possible. Consequently, the Kathmandu Valley and the major cities have been free from the power outage.


First thing, the energy minister did was to remove the uncooperative Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), and appointed a sincere and valuable person Kulman Ghising to CEO of NEA. Both Minister Janardan Sharma and CEO Kulman Ghising working in tandem found that the major portion of the national power has been directed to a few large industries keeping the whole nation in darkness during the previous government headed by KP Oli also the chairman of CPN-UML.


Then both the minister and the CEO have been pushing hard to complete the hydropower plants under construction, and the transmission line to complete as soon as possible. A few new hydropower plants have produced power and connected to the national power grid. Both of them went to India and talked to their Indian counterparts for importing more power from India to mitigate the power shortage in Nepal. India has benevolently providing Nepal with powers even itself facing power shortage.


It has not been so easy for both the minister and the CEO to work for the country and for the people. Three Board Members of the NEA Board had been deadly against the country making free from power outage; so, they did not cooperate with both the minister and the CEO. The government removed the three-not-cooperating board members but they went to the Supreme Court demanding to reinstate them as the board members. Hearing on the case, the first Bench of the Supreme Court issued an interim order to the government not to enforce the dismissal of the three board members but after some days, the next Bench of the Supreme Court hearing on the same case dismissed the interim order the previous Bench had ordered.


Now, the economics of power play, and how the previous government of Oli had possibly made a large sum of money out of keeping the majority of the people without light and forcing the industries and business to import diesel for generating power for running their business and factories or to run their businesses and factories only when power was available. Thus, the government of CPN-UML and its partner RPP-Nepal has practically sold Nepal to the country from where diesel, generators, inverters and batteries were imported. The same politicians have been claiming that they are the nationalists for saving the country from going to the hands of the foreign country. Is it not hypocrisy only to cover up their corrupt deeds?


The irony is that even some trade union members of the NEA have come out against making the country free from power outage clearly giving the hint at they have the share in the benefits coming out of the power outage. It also made it clear that possibly from the prime minister down to the level of the grassroots level workers of the NEA have the share in making hundred if not thousands of billions of NPR out of denying Nepalese the power supply, and stalling the industrial, business, social and economic development of the country.


NEA sells power at less than NPR 10 per unit of power, and even at a lesser rate to the industries. However, producing power from the diesel generators cost more than NPR 30 per unit of power. So, any factory or a business entity having diesel generators for producing power has to pay for power three times more than the power they get from the NEA.


Diesel has to come from India, and burning diesel means producing smoke polluting atmosphere. So, it involves not only financial cost to the industries and business but also the social cost and environmental cost to not only the country but also to the world as a whole.


Common folks have either to be without power or to install invertors and batteries to produce power for lighting houses during the power outage. This has been another cost to the households, and the burden on the nation, too for importing such equipment.


On the one hand the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats have been making billions of NPR causing the power shortage on the other hand the country has to import billions of NPR worth of invertors, batteries, rechargeable lamps and solar panels. The amount these fraudulent guys pocketed could probably build a few hydropower plants. So, anybody could guess how much more industrialists or businesspersons or common folks have paid for the power outage caused thanks to the politicians that have been claiming the nationalists. Probably, the payment runs in hundreds of billions of NPR.


Obviously, former Prime Minster KP Oli and his Minister for Energy Radha Gyawali had clearly have been involved along with the NEA officials and even with the grassroots-level workers in causing the power outage.  They have diverted the major power to a few industries for 24 hours a day keeping the country without power for more than a half-day throughout a year, the media reported.


The privileged industries that have received the favor from the prime minister and the minister for energy down to the NEA officials and workers have enjoyed the cost advantage of more than NPR 20 per unit of power they use otherwise they would need to produce power from the diesel engines at the cost of more than NPR 30 per unit or to wait the power supply to run the factories. They simply must have made the profit of hundreds if not thousands of billions of NPR only from the advantage of receiving the cheap power from the national grid. They also must have made a huge profit from the low production cost and the high production their factories could make with the uninterrupted power supply stolen from the common folks.


Now, the question is how much the profit the industries made, must have shared with the prime minister down to the workers of the NEA. It must be hundreds of billions of NPR these unscrupulous guys must have pocketed causing other industries, business and common folks that have been subjected to power outage to pay for the high cost of power production from the diesel engines, and the common folks to pay for inverters and batteries to light their house during the power outage.


Is it not the State criminal act of the government and of the NEA officials and workers? Certainly, it is a national crime but nobody would be able to indict such criminals because the evidences available are indirect ones only. Possibly, the Law Courts would not be able to judge them based on such evidences.


No wonder those flip-flop CPN-UML politicians at the time of entering the parliament in 1991, have been living like princes and monarchs in the modern bungalows today, as the source of means of highly luxurious livelihood have been the power outage. They did not even need to steal the money from the State treasury. They even feel that they are the princes and even monarchs as the spirit of the ghosts of the dead monarchs and princes must have entered in their minds. They have been for installing the Statue of Prithvi Narayan Shah in Kathmandu humiliating the entire Nepalese people that had been subjugated to slavery, poverty and destitute for 240 years.


Those who have been responsible for power outage diverting the power to a few industries could be called criminals, as they have pushed the country to the poverty. They should not go free without retribution


The most important part of the power outage has been that the industries and businesses have either to close down or run them only during the power supply time or run diesel engines to produce power at three times the cost the power NEA could supply them. Consequently, their products have been costly. They could not compete in the market because of the high cost of their products whereas the few industries from the then prime minister down to the NEA workers have favored could run for 24 hours a day and harvest the profits from the high productions of their products and from the low power cost they have received from the NEA thanks to the then prime minister and the NEA officials and workers.


The business community also has to pay high prices for the power outage. They have to have power generators run on diesel or gasoline. Business offices have to run diesel motors to produce power to keep their business going. Hospitals have to keep the expensive diesel engines standby for 24 hours a day, and buy the high cost diesel for power. Even small stores have to run generators to light their stores polluting the atmosphere already so polluted by the vehicle exhausting fumes and the dust they kick off in the air.


Each house needed to keep an inverter and a battery standby for lighting the house during the power outage. Any family that can afford keeps such equipment but even the families that cannot afford such costly equipment have to have some rechargeable lamps to keep the light on in a room or a kitchen. Thus, every family needed to spend its limited resource on buying an additional equipment to keep light going on whenever the national power agency stops working for the common folks for providing power to the few privileged industries.


Former Prime Minister KP Oli and his energy minister must have known that how many billions of NPR has gone for importing those inverters and batteries, and rechargeable lamps. They are really selling the nation’s assets to the foreign country for making money for themselves and their party. Are they real nationalists that are supposed to save the country if they are subjecting the country to the import of the foreign equipment, and fuel at the cost of the nation they are supposed to build?


Now, Minister for Energy Janardan Sharma and CEO of NEA Kulman Ghising have nothing but only praise and good will from the people that have uninterrupted power supply for the last four months reducing the cost of diesel and gasoline for producing power. They have imported power from India and made the contractors and owners of hydropower plants to complete the power plants as soon as possible.


Importing power is three times less costly than importing diesel and producing power. That is the financial benefits. It is the clean energy. It keeps the environment clean. The uninterrupted power supply has relieved the industries from the high cost of diesel power plants they needed to have. They could run their factories 24 hours a day. Laborers have the work for full shifts. Thus, employment opportunities have been enhanced. All benefits coming out of the smooth supply of power everybody has been enjoying must be in hundreds of billions of NPR.


Hospitals and other business community do not need to keep any generators standby for running to produce power at the time of power outage. They don’t need to keep diesel or gasoline in stock for running the power producing engines. It makes their business less costly. They saved the money they needed to pay for purchasing the generators, and then fuel for them.


The State saves the foreign currency used for importing diesel, generators, inverters, batteries and other rechargeable devices for producing light, and the cost of hundreds of fuel tankers carrying diesel and gasoline from India and then taking the fuel to the different corners of the country. The savings from all those things must be in hundreds of billions of NPR. The State could use such a hard-earned valuable foreign currency for other important purposes such as building new hydropower plants.


Another most important benefit is the free from the pollution. Anybody could only guess how much pollution the diesel generators the factories, hospitals, and the businesspeople have to run during the power outage, have produced. However, anybody walking along the streets in Kathmandu during the power-cut could find the generators working at the entrances to most of the stores, producing smoke and noise polluting the local environment already heavily polluted from dust and fumes vehicles produced.


Common folks also have benefited a lot from the uninterrupted power supply. They don’t need inverters and batteries, and even the rechargeable lamps, as the smooth power supply has been thanks to the sincere work of the minister for energy and the CEO of NEA.


The most important part of the sincerity of the minister for energy and the CEO has been the revelation of the misdeeds or shady practices of the previous government headed by KP Oli and his minister for energy and all the officials and workers of the NEA involved in the power outage for having the financial benefits from the power outage. Nepalese have lived in the perpetual darkness thanks to such politicians claiming to be the nationalists but selling the nation to another country for their personal benefits.


Minister for Energy Janardan Sharma has proudly said that no future prime minister or minister could any more divert the power to a few industries for the personal benefits of the ministers and the officials and workers, as the common folks would rise up against such corrupt practices. The minister must be one hundred percent correct, as the current Nepalese are of the 21st century. They are in the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. They have every right to fight for their benefits.


January 10, 2017

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