Caught napping again

The nation is faced with a serious power crisis due to non-supply of coal to thermal stations. The Union coal and power ministries are hard at work to solve the problem, but it would take time. The crisis in the power sector unfolded just as the nation was somewhat back on track after the derailment of life in general during the Covid pandemic term lasting a year and a half. Industrial activities have regained the lost pace and this was only to be expected. As had happened in the time of the handling of the second Covid wave, the government was again caught napping. A dispensation does not function on the lines of a hand-to-mouth existence; and advance planning is integral to governance. It involves anticipating what is coming. Clearly, in both these times, the governmental agencies were found wanting in adequately responding to emerging situations.
After power sector reforms, India’s power sector held high promise and a scenario of surplus power emerged. Now, state after state is faced with a power crisis and sending SOS to the Centre to reach sufficient coal to thermal stations. A reason cited by the Union Government for the present crisis in the power sector is that the coal prices in the international markets have surged and that this led to a cut in imports and an increasing dependence on domestic coal. Also, the domestic coal production and transportation were “affected due to rains.” The claim that industrial activities peaked after the near-end of the second Wave could be true. This should have been anticipated and action taken to meet the emerging requirements. India is the second largest importer, consumer and producer of coal; the first being China. China’s ban on coal import from Australia came in between. The price of coal in the global market surged also due to the heavy intake by China in the post-Covid scenario because of heightened industrial activity in the world’s central production beehive.
Thermal power takes care of half of India’s energy requirements today even as there is a stress also on renewable energy sources. Hydel projects are largely discouraged due to resistance from environmentalists. In this scenario, the rise in the prices of imported coal will have an adverse impact on prices overall. Steel plants, for instance, see a four-fold rise in their production costs. This will raise steel prices and construction costs. So is the case with other sectors. Lack of adequate advance planning added to the power sector crisis.

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