This Taj city 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 2010. The
Torrent Power Company, which claimed it had done wonders in
Gujarat, took over charge from state-owned Dakshinanchal Vidyut
Vitran Nigam Ltd.
Torrent, which promised a "bright future" and whose advertisement
punch line was "To make Agra shining and bright as the Taj",
criticizes the state government for not supplying enough power.
Against a demand of around 350 MVA, Agra is getting only around
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 private discom.
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.
The local MPs have held a series of Lok Adalats against Torrent.
Divisional commissioner Amrit Abhijat has periodically issued
stern warnings. Sudhir Gupta, an irate resident of Vijay Nagar
colony, fumed: "They have a 24x7 helpline number but it has not
Torrent officials said in their defence that the regular shutdowns
have been necessitated by the need for maintenance for the coming
"Increased load in many areas led to tripping and malfunctioning
of the equipments, including transformer burnouts, but now we are
trying to restore and speed up the work," a company official told
Said environmentalist Shravan Kumar Singh of the Heritage
Conservation Society: "Every time there is a blackout of this
nature, more than 60,000 generators run on diesel 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.
"If diesel-run generators keep running non-stop, the emission
levels are naturally going to be alarmingly high," he added.
Due to erratic power supply, the Agra Water Works too has been
affected, as has industrial production in the city.
"Half of the city has remained without water for many days," said
environmentalist Ravi Singh.
The Water Works has written to the district authorities to ensure
uninterrupted power supply.
Rajeev Gupta, representing the Indian Industries Association, said
factories in the city have been badly hit "and this being festival
time, orders for supply are pending".
The tourism industry and the hoteliers are equally alarmed.
"Power supply in Agra is erratic and inadequate. Tourists find it
very irritating and feel disturbed in the dead of night when there
is no electricity. It takes time to start generators and the ACs
don't work," Goverdhan Hotel owner Surendra Sharma told IANS.
Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association president Rakesh Chauhan
said: "The state government should have realised the importance of
tourism and made arrangements to meet the shortfall."
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at email@example.com)