Monday, May 12, 2008

Part 1: So that Mumbai, Pune could have light

Nowhere does a time warp exist as it does in the Mulshi and Maval talukas of Pune district. As many as 109 villages here have facilitated the progress of Mumbai and Pune with a key input - uninterrupted power supply. Yet, lights remain switched off more often than not in these villages.

In 1917, villages in the Western Ghats had no modern amenities or power, but they did have steady income through farming. Then Tata Power Company arrived, first in Maval and then in Mulshi.

Through the State Council, it acquired 44,000 acres of land in Mulshi and another 14,000 acres in Maval to build six dams.

To ensure Mumbai’s march to progress, water from these reservoirs was taken to three power stations at Bhira, Khopoli and Bhivpuri. They provided, in JRD Tata's own words, “clean power for Mumbai city”.

The prosperous local landowners, however, did not get power for 60 years after the first power generation unit was set up in Khopoli in 1918, despite giving up their land for the power generation project.

Cut to 2008. Mumbai faces no load shedding except in some areas. The city shines brighter after darkness envelops other regions. In Pune, life goes on under lights. In a tragic paradox, 109 villages in these talukas consider themselves lucky if one gets a power line, a community water tap or an approach road. They're exceptionally lucky if they have all three.

Nine villages in Mulshi have never flipped a light switch on. Piped water has still not reached 16 villages in the two talukas. Over 5,000 affected families live on the fringe of their former homes, spread over 58,000 acres of agricultural land in arid settlements lacking basic amenities.

The absence of roads and streetlights means that people from Susale have to trudge 2 km from Gaute to reach their village, which has no power.

However, 300-mw power comes from the reservoir near Susale.

There are some more weird facts: 18 nameless villages in Bhushi region have to pay encroachment tax, as they are not marked in the City Survey! At Bhushi, villagers trudge 3 km for cremations. And they have no public toilet.

Sahara's Amby Valley has 24hour drinking water and power supply, but the village that gave the valley its name Aambavane - has no water and suffers 8-hour power cuts daily.

In an even stranger twist, naval training school INS Shivaji was set up in Maval in the 1960s after displacing two villages. It has its own dam. The two villages and its residents settled 3 km away are now not allowed to venture into the area.

“The company makes Rs 25,00,000 per minute by selling power from our land. We have neither amenities nor something that can be described as life. Why should Mumbai progress at our cost? Why must we continue to be poor?” asks Niketan Palkar (42), secretary of the Tata Dharan Grast Sangharsh Samiti (Maval and Mulshi). How much power do the villages need? Adding up all domestic use and small industry consumption, not more than 10 mw. The three powerhouses supply Mumbai 444 mw. And there is a proposal for a 100-mw unit by constructing one more dam.

To be Concluded


renu said...

hi vrushali..
brilliant piece of journalism. took me back to my sophia's classroom, wer we used to hear sainath speak the same language wth such committed passion that it brought tears to our eyes and made us feel guilty abt being so indifferent to the injustice that breeds everywer right infront of our eyes..i work in the features department of sakaal times, pune. m delighted to know we hav such able reporters working for our paper..cheers..

WiseAss said...

hey renu, thank u so much for such a sincere compliment. am both honoured and humbled. cheers!