According to estimates, the water being held presently in the State's hydel reservoirs will suffice to generate only 1,752 million units (MU) of power while the annual demand is over 20,000 MU. But the Ministers do not seem to be serious about this fact considering the consumption levels at their homes though they are eloquent about the need of austerity in power consumption.
According to data available with the Kerala State Electricity Board, official residence of each of the 21 State Ministers in Thiruvananthapuram has been consuming over 1,000 units per month while the board has imposed a one-hour daily load-shedding and is threatening to penalize ordinary consumers who use up more than 200 units monthly.
Leading the Ministers in consumption of electricity at their official residences is Chief Minister Oommen Chandy himself. Cliff House, the Chief Minister's home, has been using up over 4,000 units of power a month, taking the electricity bill to over Rs 42,000. Even when Chandy was not staying at Cliff House, the consumption had refused to fall below the 4,000-unit mark.
Manmohan Bungalow, the home of Power Minister Aryadan Muhammad of the Congress, who has been asking people to switch off their home appliances like refrigerators for two-to-three hours a day in view of the power crunch, has been guzzling electricity worth Rs 25,000 to Rs 28,000 a month.
Octogenarian Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan, a central committee member of the CPI(M), is known for his simple life-style but his official residence Cantonment House presents a typical example of power-guzzling. The monthly power consumption at Cantonment House has been recorded as between 2,300 and 2,700 units.
These power bills and consumption may look insignificant when compared to those incurred by certain Union Ministers and ministers in some resource-rich states but the seriousness becomes clear when one considers the fact that the average cost of a unit of power in Kerala is just Rs 4.64, that too after an upward tariff revision.
"Such power consumption is nothing but injustice committed by the Ministers to the people of Kerala," says Pannyan Raveendran, State secretary of the CPI. "In our democracy, Ministers are there not just to make people obey their decisions and orders but they themselves are supposed to abide by the rules and regulations," he says.
Meanwhile, the 40-percent fall noticed in the water inflow to hydel reservoirs in the State during the June-September southwest monsoon season is sure to impact the power sector badly, forcing the KSEB to scout the neighbouring states for costly thermal power to bridge the demand-supply gap in the context of increasing consumption levels.
The KSEB had expected the reservoirs to receive an inflow of water sufficient for generating 4,460 million units of power but the actual inflow would be enough to generate only 2,710 million units. At the same time, per-day consumption in Kerala last week went up to over 59 MU while this was just over 50 MU last year.