It is not a secret that the country has been facing frequent power outages in recent months. The supply of electricity is interrupted, sometimes several times a day, for hours on end. All these have combined to make people suspect if they are being put through “undeclared load-shedding”. These suspicions have poured over on social media where many people regularly criticise the NEA and its leadership and criticise the government, particularly the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, for not doing enough to stop the blackouts.
The Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) has now shown its concerns towards the public grievances. On Monday, it called the Acting Managing Director of NEA Hitendra Dev Shakya, members of its management and chiefs of the various distribution centres inside Kathmandu Valley and directed them to solve the issue of electricity outages immediately. The office even instructed the authority to take action against employees who are found to be involved in intentional activities of power interruption. Such activities should never be tolerated.
This is a positive step on the part of the OPMCM and it shows that the government does not take public feedback lightly. Understanding the troubles of the citizens and responding to them in a swift manner is one of the fundamental duties of the state, but it is a duty that the public feels the past governments of Nepal failed discharge. Taking prompt action like this serves to convey the fact that the government and especially Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, will not tolerate any undesirable efforts to push the country back towards darkness. On a wider scale, it sends the message that the present government listens to the people’s woes and is striving to solve them with all the seriousness.
Focusing on the issue at hand, the NEA has repeatedly stated and once again reiterated to the OPMCM on Monday that the current power outages were not load-shedding but were, in fact, technical failures. It attributes the blackouts to maintenance works being carried out at various locations across the country. If that is the case, then the authority should openly and clearly state so to the people. Nothing should be kept in the dark. It should give prior information about what kind of maintenance work needs to be done where and when so that people can prepare accordingly. When people are subject to sudden, prolonged and uninformed blackouts, then they will think it is load-shedding. They will be frustrated and of course, they will direct their anger at who they think is responsible – the NEA.
We live in the 21st century where electricity can be considered a basic need on par with food and shelter. In such a context, it is the responsibility of the NEA to modernise its system and perennially maintain its operational capacity to ensure there are no “technical failures” to begin with. However, if the power needs to cut, then it should give at least a day’s notice so that the people are not caught off guard. Not doing so should be deemed a failure of the management, and the government should hold it responsible for that.