Agra: Agra, which is home to the Taj Mahal, turns dark for several hours daily, despite privatisation of power distribution last year and a clear Supreme Court directive to ensure "uninterrupted power supply" to the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone.
Power distribution in the city was privatised in April last year. The Torrent Power Company, which claimed it had done wonders in Gujarat, took over from state-owned Dakshinanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Ltd.
Torrent, which promised a "bright future" and whose advertising punchline was "to make Agra shining and bright as the Taj", criticises the state government for not supplying enough power. Against a demand of around 350 MVA, Agra is getting only around 250 MVA.
Uttar Pradesh Electricity Minister Ramvir Upadhyaya, who stays in the city and whose wife Seema Upadhyaya is the Lok Sabha MP from the Fatehpur Sikri rural Agra seat, said there is a huge shortfall in power generation. The power cuts in the last 15 days have ranged from anything between six hours and 12 hours daily. Every few days there is an act of vandalism, destruction of property or a road jam against the company.
The Supreme Court in 1996 directed the state government to provide uninterrupted power supply in Taj Trapezium Zone to save the 17th century monument from pollution by gensets.
Local MPs have held a series of Lok Adalats (people's courts) against Torrent. Divisional commissioner Amrit Abhijat has periodically issued stern warnings. Sudhir Gupta, a resident of Vijay Nagar colony, fumed: "They have a 24x7 helpline number but it has not proved helpful."
Torrent officials said the shutdowns have been necessitated by the need for maintenance for the coming winter.
"Increased load in many areas led to tripping and malfunctioning of equipment, including transformer burnouts, but now we are trying to restore and speed up the work," a company official said.
Environmentalist Shravan Kumar Singh of the Heritage Conservation Society, said, "Every time there is a blackout of this nature, more than 60,000 diesel-powered generators are started to provide power to shops, factories and showrooms."
"So all the good work done to contain air pollution is reduced to naught and this being the festival season, the demand for power is substantially higher," he said.
Due to erratic power supply, "half of the city has remained without water for several days," said environmentalist Ravi Singh.