Why in the News?

As per the recent reports, India needs more funding and coordinated action for the safety of tragic electrical accidents.

About India’s Power Sector

  • The power Sector relates directly or indirectly to the activities of production, and marketing and/or directly or indirectly to the sale of electricity or heat or related products and services.
  • The power sector has three main segments:
    • Generation: Producing power using different fuels is carried out in generating plants.
    • Transmission utilities carry vast power from the generation plants to the distribution sub-stations through the grid at high voltages.
    • Distribution: Distribution utilities supply electricity from the substations to the consumers through interconnected networks.
      • Distribution is the selling phase and functions at lower voltages.

Issues Faced by Power Sector:

  • Fuel Security Concerns:
    • A significant natural gas-based capacity of more than 20,000 MW is idle due to the non-availability of natural gas.
    • Coal supply is limited, which led to increased dependence on imported coal with the flow of resulting in high power generation costs.
  • Transmission & Distribution Losses:
    • India’s average technical and commercial losses constitute about 32% of electricity which is ultimately high as compared to the developed countries (6-11%).
  • Ageing Power Plants and Transmission network:
    • A major reason for outdated transmission and power plants is due to the immediate instalments after independence.
    • Requires up-gradation or power shut.
  • Interstate Disputes:
    • Interstate river disputes cost effect in the power sector of India.
    • For example, Mahanadi river interstate disputes.
  • Coordination Issues:
    • Multiple ministries and agencies involved in managing the power sector usually lead to adverse effects on Power Sector.

Rising Fatalities

  • As per the reports from National Crime Record Bureau, the rate of Electric shock deaths and fires has rapidly increased over years.
  • From 2957 deaths and 0.36 deaths per lakh population in 1990 to 15,258 deaths and 1,13 death per lakh population in 2020.
  • The number of death due to electrical shocks have been reduced in other countries as compared to India.
  • 90% of the electrical shock deaths are of common people rather than workers due to unawareness.
  • Most accidents occur in rural areas.
  • Poor urban local areas need special attention as they are located mostly on the verge of such power sectors.
  • Most fatalities occur at distribution networks and low-tension consumer locations.
  • Deaths also occur due to open switchboards or short circuits or electrical faults.

Safety checks and balances

  • Certain guidelines have been created to be followed by all electricity utilities.
  • No such guidelines to keep a check on electricity utilities if the guidelines have been followed.
  • Due to understaffing, the major focus is on industrial interest rather than public welfare.
  • Grass-root organisations focus on the exgratia of workers rather than the welfare of the workers.
  • Distribution companies are expected to have safety officers and periodic safety conduction.

The solution to overcome ongoing issues

  • Fuel Reforms
    • Increase participation of Private sectors.
    • Easing of the regulatory framework
  • Increased financing facility
    • Need a robust and sustainable enhanced frame
  • Cooperative Federalism
    • Resolving issues of inter-state disputes

Way forward

  • Electric safety is a public interest challenge which can be met only through coordinated and mutual action.
  • Current tightening of the issues can be done using efficient data collection, introducing safety measures in National programmes and using technological innovations.
  • Need for a national programme to reduce electrical accidents in the distribution sector
    • A clear scope of work
    • Sufficient resource allocation and robust monitoring
    • Verification mechanism
  • States could distinguish districts with the most fatalities and can conclude a plan of action to tackle such issues.
  • Need to chalk out a measure to not only affordable, quality, and universal but also quality safety.