By Meetu Jain, CNN-IBN
New Delhi: Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal has said that the coal crisis that threatened a power blackout in the country has been averted and things will get to normal in the next four to five days. It was blamed on blockade in Telangana, rains and a two-day strike in Coal India for the crisis.
But documents with CNN-IBN show that Telangana and flooding were not the real reasons for the recent power crisis. The Electricity Authority data shows that the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and other power utilities did not maintain adequate coal reserves.
Data shows NTPC kept coal reserves dangerously low at some plants. In October alone, as many as 22 power stations were declared 'super critical', that means coal just to last four days, while 36 power stations were 'critical' - that is coal for less than 15 days.
Last week, angry consumers ransacked offices of power distribution offices in several locations in Maharashtra.
The Coal Ministry and NTPC have blamed it on the weather, on the people (due to Telangana agitation) or even on the Indian Railways.
"It rained like never before. Ten-year-old record of rainfall has been broken," said Sriprakash Jaiswal.
He even blamed the Telangana crisis for the fall in power production.
"There was shortfall since the (Telangana) strike began," said Jaiswal.
But the data from the Central Electricity Authority tell a different story. Coal reserves were kept dangerously low by power utilities like NTPC in the previous year too, when there was no Telangana or Coal India strike.
Consider the figures for just October 3, 2011 and 2010:
In 2011 Badarpur Thermal Power Station had four days of stock instead of 30 days. In 2010 Badarpur was the only power plant that was overstocked - 44 days - against the requirement of 30 days. Possibly this was because of the Commonwealth Games.
Dadri had three days instead of the 30 it's supposed to maintain in October this year. Last year, Dadri had just 11 days against the reserve of 30 days, while Vindhyachal had no stock instead of 15 days. Last year also they had no stock in plant.
The NTPC has not responded to an email query… but power ministry sources told CNN IBN that - NTPC is following CEA norms because they are not allowed to keep coal stock of more than 15 days as CAG questions them for keeping government money blocked. That's a new twist in the tale of the power crisis.
So, did Telangana hit coal supply that badly? The Singareni Collieries even in the agitation month of September met it overall target at 101 per cent, though dispatches to power plants was only 61 per cent.
The other reason put for poor supply of coal is shortage of railways. But a Planning Commission note deflates this theory. The railways has been suggesting that road movement be stopped and railway rakes lying idle should be put to some use.
The Coal Ministry wants NTPC to import coal, but the company said it's not feasible.
In the name of keeping costs under control, the nation has been pushed to the brink of a crippling power crisis, and surprisingly the company in the eye of the story is public sector Navratna NTPC.