OF POWER MINISTERS AND POWER WOES

Unlike Digambar Kamat, who as power minister for two terms, would personally attend to any complaints about power break downs, Pandurang Madkaikar was not even present when the shifting of the old 112 kw tower (far left) was taking place on Sunday, to ensure that it did not cause inconvenience to Goans

BY RAJAN NARAYAN

Over the last 35 years I have lived in Goa, I have witnessed many failures. Some of them were planned or scheduled power shut downs for repairs and maintenance. But most of the time the power used to vanish without any rhyme or reason leaving everyone in darkness. The worst part was not the power shut down or the power crises. It was the violent fluctuations in voltage, which meant death to the fridge and washing machine and oven, even if there was an invertor.
Most of the time, at least till the beginning of the new century, 2000, which coincided with the BJP coming into power, the power interruptions lasted only for a few minutes. This happened when the Electricity Department shifted from the Karnataka grid to the Maharastra grid. This is because Goa does not have any captive source of power supply. Which in simple ‘red’ English means that Goa does not produce even one kilo watt of power. All the power that Goa enjoys is a gift from the Central government.
Much of the power to Goa comes from thermal stations in which coal is the main raw material. These thermal stations are located in Ramagudam in the South India and Korba in Rajasthan and in Karnataka. When there is a problem with power supply from Karnataka the main transformer switches to the Maharashtra grid and vice versa. This is when there is an interruption in power supply for few seconds. But as you know, if you do not have an UPS system on your computer, even a one second interruption is enough to lose all your matter.
Part of the reason why Nitin Gadkari calls Goans ungrateful is that though their power comes from thermal power stations they are opposing the import of coal which is the main raw material in thermal power stations. But then Nitin Gadkari has his own agenda and wants to control not only coal but the whole of Goa through his son’s sasupai Sudin Dhavalikar.

BETTER DAYS

Every time there was a power breakdown I would call up first the junior engineer (JE), then the assistant engineer and finally the chief engineer. If there was no response, at least for the ten years that Digambar Kamat used to be the power minister, I would call him up on his landline or his mobile anytime, night or day. I remember calling him up even at 3 am, complaining that I had no power the whole night. Why should he, the power minister, sleep in air conditioned comfort when I am sweating?
To his enormous credit, Digambar Kamat used to not only answer the phone personally but instruct the concerned engineer to restore power. If there was a problem he would call me back and tell me how long it would take. Digambar was also the only power minister who started the process of modernizing the power infrastructure in Goa. When he first took over as the power minister in the first Parrikar government he realized that overhead lines were a major problem. Not only were they over 30 years old, if a crow decided to do a tango or zumba on the electric wires there would be a power breakdown.
Digambar also was the first to realize that while the population in Goa had kept increasing, the capacity of transformers remained the same.
Digmabar increased the capacity of the transformers and the number of transformers so that there would be enough for the increasing population. In many urban areas like Panjim and Margao Digambar initiated the process of transferring the overhead lines underground, so that they would not be affected by dancing crows. Or the falling leaves of coconut trees.
The biggest challenge before Digamber Kamat was to find linesmen who were willing to climb the overhead electricity poles in the coastal belt and in rural areas. When old linesmen retired their children did not want to follow them in their job. Just as there is a desperate shortage of coconut pluckers, there is also a desperate shortage of linesmen. One could not blame linesmen for not wanting to repair the overhead lines and climb the poles because the department did not give them any equipment. There were times when we had to supply the ladders. Even in wet weather the linesmen were not given gloves or protective equipment. In fact, very sadly, the house in which I am staying now is a memorial to an electricity linesman who died of electrocution.

‘HOME TOWNS’ BECKON

I returned from a brief holiday which turned out to be a painful medical stay from Bangalore on Saturday, only to find when I reached home that there was no power supply. As usual I called up the assistant engineer who has always been very helpful. He told me he was on leave and to contact some other engineer. I discover that the executive engineer was also on leave and did not respond.
The majority of the executive staff of the electricity department and the water supply department are from Kerala or Andhra. The present chief engineer is from Andhra, or rather Telangana since the state is split. And since all of them are bhailes they all go back to their ‘home towns’ in May for a vacation to coincide with the holidays of their children studying in schools and colleges. Hence it is difficult to find the assistant engineer and the junior engineer in the month of May when they are needed the most, as they have to do the maintenance in preparation of the monsoon like cutting branches of trees which might fall on overhead electric lines.
An even bigger problem is that for many years now Goa has been struggling to appoint a chief engineer in the Electricity Department. This is because all the technical people who came from Kerala and Andhra and Karnataka to look after the Electricity Department after Liberation were diploma holders. The condition was that only a full-fledged graduate electrical engineer could become chief engineer.
Which is why the last Goan CE was given a 10-year extension after his retirement age. Finally he quit because being a diabetes patient his kidneys failed and he is on dialysis. He had his kidney transplant done in Malaysia since getting a matching donor in India is so difficult. But apparently they did a bad job as he is back on dialysis. All the diploma holders were promoted to the rank of executive engineers because of the absence of Goan candidates for the job. But they could not be appointed as chief engineer.
Even the present chief engineer has been appointed on a temporary basis, and has allegedly been involved in many scams, including ensuring that his wife who was also in the Electricity Department was able to avoid transfers and work in Margao for more than 25 years. The rule is that no government employee can work at the same place for more than three years. I understand that she is finally transferred.

NOT A NEW PROBLEM

The power problems in Goa go back to the Portuguese colonial era. Before Liberation there were no engineering colleges in Goa. There were no polytechnic or industrial training institutes. The Portuguese boast of starting the first medical college in Asia. But this was not for the benefit of Goans but for their colonies in Africa.
The Portuguese did not even start a higher secondary or a degree college. They did not even start primary schools. In the first three years after Bandodkar became the chief minister he started 800 Marathi schools so that all the lower classes would get an education.

SINGLE POLE: Previously towers occupied more space, however new towers are single pole

So much so when the Portuguese left India after Liberation Goa did not have any engineer or technical staff. They all came from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Which is why if you pick up official directory you will find it full of South Indian names.
As far as we can recall there were only two Goans who became chief engineer. The first was Mr Juze Pereira, who was the chief engineer for a long time and even invented a device to make it easy for linesman to climb electrical poles. He was followed by engineer Rego who remained chief engineer till his kidneys failed and he had to undergo a kidney transplant.
Ultimately, the efficiency of a department depends on the competence and interest taken by the minister-in-charge. If the power situation this year is the worst ever since Liberation, it is because Pandurang Madkaikar is the power minister. Yes, the same Pandurang Madkaikar who has built a palace as big as the Bom Jesus Basilica in violation of heritage rules. Madkaikar is more interested in his construction business than the Power Ministry. It is very sad to hear that the Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who is recovering from a very serious medical condition in New York, had to take control and monitor the restoration of power supply to Panjim.
Manohar Parrikar should have sacked Madkaikar from the Power Ministry and appointed somebody more competent. If he does not do so then he should not blame the people the Goa if they follow the example of Dr R Venkatesh and hammer the power minister as he is alleged to have done, although it is Dr Venkatesh who fractured his leg and hand, while Dr Dalvi seems to have recovered very fast.
But Madkaikar has such a thick head it will be difficult to make any impact. Also, since Old Goa where he stays next to Goencho Saiba, is as dark as the rest of Goa, it will be difficult to find Madkaikar.

STAFF SHORTAGES

There is an equally serious problem for which the chief minister must share the responsibility. There is a serious shortage of staff in the Electricity Department, particularly at the ground level. As we pointed out earlier nobody is interested in the job of linesmen who have to climb electricity poles to repair breaks in the overhead line. Not that underground lines are faring much better. Telecom companies, particularly Jio, have damaged undergound power cables all over the State.
The vacancies cannot be filled up because the power minister requires the approval of the chief minister, who is in charge of recruitment. With the chief minister away in New York, the file for filling the vacancies and recruiting more staff is still pending. Even contractors and suppliers of electrical equipment like new transformers or even small but vital parts costing a few rupees, cannot be purchased without Finance Minister Parrikar’s sanction. Parrikar has not delegated his power as finance minister to any other minister.
I do not know if every cheque travels to New York. There was a further complication with reports that the doctors at Sloan Kettering, the best cancer specialist hospital in the world, are afraid Mr Parrikar may catch an infection from the files sent from Goa. Maybe Parrikar bab can use a digital signature like all company directors are required to do.

CHASING POWER

The power situation will not get better. It will get worse when the monsoons start. Traditionally the rains arrive in Goa four days after they come to Kerala. I consider myself an expert on the movement of the rain from Kerala where it first arrives and then spreads to the rest of the country due to a book called ‘Chasing the Monsoon’. The book is written by an English traveller who chased the monsoon from Kanyakumari to Cherrapunji in Meghalaya which used to receive the highest rainfall in the world. The author of ‘Chasing the Monsoon’ became a good friend because he could not get an air ticket from Goa to Mumbai to chase the rain to Mumbai and I had helped him get a ticket.
This year it will be worse because normally preparations for the monsoons start a month before. Madkaikar must have been so busy giving finishing touches to his palace that the work was undertaken only on Sunday, when there was a power cut from early morning to late at night. In many parts the power never came back even at night.
I wished I had stayed back in Bangalore, where fortunately there was no power cut. This is why industries are also reluctant to come to Goa because no factory in Goa can function without backup generators which add significantly to the cost. If they relied on Goa’s Electricity Department they would have to remain shut most of the week. All of us should force Manohar Parrikar, or acting chief minister Nitin Gadkari, to sack Pandurang Madkaikar and perhaps appoint Rohan Khaunte as the power minister.

BLACKOUT SERVICE

The following officials of the Electricity Department are always willing and ready to help you. Please call them and get your grievances redressed.

ELECTRICITY VIDYUT BHAVAN, PANAJI-GOAELECTRICITY VIDYUT BHAVAN, PANAJI-GOAEPABX 26421/246022/2422353
OFFICE OF THE CHIEF ELECTRICAL ENGINEER, PANAJINeelkant Reddy, Chief Electrical Engineer Panaji, 7350611000                                                                                         Reshma Methew, Superintending Engineer (Planning),Panaji, 7350644000                                                                                     Ajit Pawaskar Director(Admn), CEEs Office Panaji, 9822126667                                                                                          Ramakant R. Talkar, Dy. Director (Admn), Panaji, 7350655000                                                                           Rajendra Gaude, Jt. Director of Accounts, CEEs Office, Panaji, 7350666000                                                                           Vinod Kolvelkar, Assit. Engineer, Panaji, 7350699000                                                                         Bharat Nigalye, Exe. Engineer (Elect) (IPM), 7350622000                                                                             R. N. Bhat, Exec. Engineer, Elect, CEEs Office, Panaji, 8380015363                                                                                      Jose Elizeu D Mello, Executive Engineer Elect., CEEs Office (Specification/Qlty. Control), Panaji, 8380015364 OFFICE OF THE SUPRINTENDING ENGINEER, ELECT CIRCLE-I (S) MARGAOL.D. Kolvekar, CEE, Superintending Engineer Circle-I(S), Margao, 7350633000
OFFICE OF THE SUPERINTENDING ENGINEER, ELECT CIRCLE-II(N) PANAJINilkant Reddy, Superintending Engineer, 7350611000
OFFICE OF THE EXECUTIVE ENGINEER, ELECT DIV-I PANAJIPaul Fernandes, Exe. Executive Engineer (Div-I Panaji), 8380015001                                                                    Mahendra Mahatme, Sr. Wireless Tech, Div-I, Panaji, 8380015024
OFFICE OF THE SUB-DIVISIONAL ENGINEER SUB- DIV-I CORLIMK Chandramoli Rao Asst. Engineer, 8380015026Shekhar Dhulapkar, J.E. Section Office, Diwar , 8380015027                                                            Gauresh N.Naik, J.E Section Office,Corlim, 8380015028                                                                         Sanjay C. Naik, J.E Section Office, Old Goa, 8380015029Shivam Mandrekar , J.E. Section Office, Chorao, 8380015030                                                         Roshan Shirodar, J.E. Sub Station, Corlim, 8380015032
OFFICE OF THE SUB-DIVISIONAL ENGINEER SUB-DIV-III BAMBOLIMDinkar Bandekar, Asstt. Engineer,  8380015043Joaquin Fernandes, J.E. Section Office Goa Velha, 8380015044                                                                Prasad Prabhu, J.E. Merces / Chimbel, 8380015045                                                                        Maria Pereira, J.E. Agassaim / Neura, 8380015048                                                                         Kapil Natekar, J.E. St. Cruz/Bambolim, 8380015047Bambolim sub-Station, Bambolim, 8380015049Pilar Sub-Station, 8380015050
OFFICE  OF THE SUB DIVISIONAL ENGINEER, SUB DIV-IV TALEIGAOGangu Kurtikar, Asstt. Executive Engineer, 8380015051 Ashok Tak, J.E. Section Office, 8380015052                                                                          T.F. Braganza, J.E. Section Office, Dona Paula, 8380015053                                                                          Nadeem Baig, J.E. Complaint and Section Taleigao, 8380015054
ELECT. DIV-II(STORES WORKSHOP), AQUEM, MARGAONizamudin Shaikh, Executive, Engineer Elect. Div-II (S W), Aquem, Margao, 8380015002                                                              Anthony Cabral, Asst.Exe. Eng. Sub. Div-I, (RCC and Works), Pajifond /Aquem, 8380015196                                                                Wilferd Vas, Asst. Exe. Eng. Div-II, (S W), Aquem, Margao, 8380015197                                                                        Suresh Sulebhavi, Asst. Exe. Eng Sub. Div-IV, (sub Store), Ponda, 8380015198                                                             Conception Alvares, JE RCC, Pajifond, Margao, 8380015199
OFFICE OF THE EXECUTIVE ENGINEER ELECT DIV-III CURTI PONDAVGS Kuncoleinkar, Executive Engineer, Div-iii, Ponda, 8380015010                                                    Rajiv R. Samant Asstt. Engineer, Ponda, 8380015003                                                        S. MohanKrishna, Asst. executive Engineer, Ponda, 8380015057                                                            Pradeep M. Naik, Asst. Engineer, 8380015059 Sunil Kumar A. Kamalapurkar, Asst. Executive Engineer (EHV Line), 8380015061Prakash B. Renke, Asst. Engineer  Shift, 8380015063                                                          Mallikarjun Kanobur, Asst. Engineer  Shift Gr ‘C’, 8380015064Ghansham A Naik, Asst. Engineer  Shift Gr ‘B’, 8380015065

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