Ramakrishnaiah H N owns a medium scale industry in Kamakshipalya that supplies electronic items to government agencies as well as to MNCs. In the last three months, his industry’s production has gone down by 30 per cent, courtesy, the load shedding.
A visibly upset Ramakrishnaiah, who is also the President of Kamakshipalya Industrial Association, forecasts the shutdown of small and medium scale industries if the situation continues for another two months.
While the industries located in industrial estates have heaved a sigh of relief with the BESCOM’s staggered power holiday announcement (no power for one industrial area for a day in a week), same is not the case with the industries operating outside industrial estates. Industries in Kamakshipalya are outside the purview of industrial estates. Hence, they continue to face three-four hours of power cut everyday.
Staggered power holidays have been declared by BESCOM for industries with effect from October 26th. This means the industries will have power on fixed six days, including Sunday, while one of the other days will be a no-power day. It enables the industries in industrial estates to get better power supply on the scheduled days of no power outage. This sytem, the BESCOM believes intends to solve two problems.
First, the industries need not suffer from scheduled or untimely power cuts on their working days. Second, it helps the power-deprived BESCOM to save electricity and manage the situation better.
However, these industries are also forced to declare weekly off for employees on the no-power day. Hence fixed weekly off of Sunday will move to other days till power situation improves and staggered power holidays are withdrawn.
Industries under mixed feeder in trouble
While the industries and industrial associations have by and large welcomed the BESCOM’s decision despite some issues that they face, industries located outside industrial estates are not benefitted from the new system. The new announcement is applicable only to the industries that are drawing power from industrial feeders. Industries located in other residential and commercial areas are drawing power from mixed feeders, hence they are left with no other option but to face the power cut.
The total number of industries in Kamakshipalya is 3,200. Of them 1,800 industrial units are registered with the Industrial Association. Speaking on behalf of these industries, Ramakrishnaiah explains the ordeal of small and medium scale industries that draw power from mixed feeders. Machohalli village on Magadi road was uninhabited a few decades ago. Industries came up there even before the construction of housing units. It was an industrial area for a long time and the units were supplied power from industrial feeders. But with the mushrooming of residential units, industries too came under mixed feeder.
“From over two months industries in areas like Kamakshipalya, Sunkadakatte, Rajaji Nagar, Prakash Nagar are facing 3-4 hours of power cut everyday. We will continue to suffer from load shedding in the coming days too since we are not connected to industrial feeders. Of the eight working hours in a day, industries are forced to halt work for 3-4 hours. Due to this, industries incur material and labour loss. Since small and medium industries lack power backup facility, abrupt power cut harms the hi-tech machines,” he says.
Most of the industries here supply products to multinational companies and public sector companies. The companies give first priority to the schedule, followed by quality and price. Load shedding has affected the production time so much so that industries are not able to deliver the goods as per schedule. “Customers are already taking a dig at us for the delay in delivering goods and if the situation continues, they will naturally approach other service providers who can deliver them on time,” he explains.
Generator costs high, employees refuse night shifts
Rajaji Nagar Industrial Association President Raju M says that micro, small and medium industries are the worst-hit, because they can not afford to operate using generators. If the electricity tariff of BESCOM is Rs 5-6 per unit, generator-based power will cost Rs 12-13 per unit.
A few industries have even tried to shift their work timing from day to night to cope up with power problem. “That too does not work out. We need the cooperation of employees for the same. When I introduced the nightshift system in my industry recently, only 4-5 employees turned up,” Raju says.
Repaying the loans is yet another burden for these industrialists. RBI has tightened the loan payment rules. “A delay in payment will bring us trouble. How can the small industrialists even survive when they are underperforming? If the situation continues, industries that are drawing power from mixed feeders will have to eventually resort to lay-offs and shut down the units,” Ramakrishnaiah H N warns.
Is the industry under panic?
Of the 8 lakh micro, small and medium industries in Karnataka, 40 per cent of the industries are Bengaluru-based, according to Karnataka Small Scale Industries Association (KASSIA). KASSIA President V K Dikshit informed that the association is holding talks with the BESCOM to sort out mixed feeder issue. “The business is down from anywhere between 30 to 80 per cent. Industries are not getting any new orders. Nobody wants to start an industry now,” he adds.
However, he did not wish to reveal the number of industries that have been closed down in the recent past. “We do not want to give a distress call and lower the morale of already panicked industrialists,” Dikshit says.
Federation of Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) has criticised the government for total mismanagement of power scenario in the State. “On the one hand the government is inviting industrialists to invest in the State and on the other hand it is not supplying electricity to industries. The problem is the result of lack of homework by Energy Department in the beginning of the year,” FKCCI Vice President M C Dinesh says.
Staggered power holiday schedule declared by BESCOM for different areas:
Monday – Bengaluru West, HSR Layout
Tuesday – Jayanagar and Koramangala
Wednesday – Bengaluru Rural
Thursday – Bengaluru North
Friday – Ramanagara
Saturday – Bengaluru East
Sunday – Davangere, Kolar, Tumkur
Situation improved in areas covered by industrial feeders
When asked about how the industries and employees are responding to staggered holiday, he said they are trying to adjust to the situation. “Definitely, the power supply has improved in last one week. Though there is power cut once in a while for a short duration, the condition has improved from pathetic to better,” he said.
Yet, he is apprehensive about the department’s assurance of providing uninterrupted power to industries with industrial feeders on six days a week. “With panchayat election round the corner, there are chances of the department diverting power to villages to appease the voters. In that case, industries might continue to suffer,” he observes.
‘Nothing can be done immediately’
Staggered holiday has reduced BESCOM’s load to some extent, says BESCOM Technical Director H Nagesh. “It has reduced our daily load by on an average 120 MW. This holiday system might continue for next 2-3 months,” he said.
Responding to the problems faced by industries drawing power from mixed feeder, he said the BESCOM could not do anything at the moment to solve the problem. “The decision of staggered holiday applicable to industries in industrial estates was taken in consensus with industrial associations. Industries drawing power from mixed feeders can’t be given uninterrupted power,” he said.
IT industries in industrial estates though come under staggered holiday system, they generally continue to function even on the day of holiday with the help of backup system like generator or UPS.
Why no industrial feeder connection to some industries?
In reality, it is the responsibility of BESCOM to give industrial feeder connection to all industries. Installing additional feeders and giving connection to industries means an additional burden to the BESCOM. Industrial associations told Citizen Matters that during their talks with BESCOM, the officials have negated the possibility of providing additional industrial feeders. To install industrial feeder requires laying new cables, which the BESCOM sees as an added burden.