The state is reeling from acute shortage of electricity.
While the urban areas are facing a power cut of three to four hours daily, the disruption of supply stretches from four to five hours in the rural pockets. The capital city is experiencing power cuts that stretch beyond two hours.
There is a growing apprehension that the festive occasions, especially Durga Puja and Kali Puja, will be marred by power cuts despite assurance by the state government that steps will be taken to avoid load-shedding during the festivals.
In order to provide power to consumers, the state has so far launched 36 projects, including the Capital Investment for Improvement of Transmission and Distribution System. But, all these have failed to address the issue of providing uninterrupted power to the consumers.
While power cuts have become the order of the day, nearly 43 lakh of the 96-lakh families in the state are yet to get power connection. Former finance minister Panchanan Kanungo said: "There has been investments to the tune of Rs 12,000 crore in the power sector since 1999 when the state had witnessed the Super Cyclone. But, no improvement has taken place. The consumers will pay a heavy price in the coming days."
The money invested includes Rs 500 crore as loan from the finance commission and Rs 2,100 crore from the power finance corporation.
However, no visible improvement has been noticed. The transmission and distribution loss is still hovering around 39 per cent, while the national guideline says that the loss should not be more than 19 per cent.
Though the state's installed generation capacity is 5,435MW of power from various sources, it actually generates only 3,400MW. Kanungo said that while all the hydel units in the state were in a bad shape, the authorities had also failed to harness renewable energy.
"We have an institution called Odisha Renewable Energy Development Agency. But, it too has failed to serve its purpose."
The former finance minister alleged that there had been a systematic loot of nearly Rs 30,000 crore in the power sector. "The companies, which had been entrusted with the distribution of power in the past, illegally collected Rs 20 from the consumers for each kilowatt of power they consumed. On this account only, the companies had collected Rs 4,200 crore. They left the state in May this year, but the state government is yet to take action against them."
These distribution companies are yet to clear their dues to the tune of Rs 3,600 crore towards the purchase of power from the Grid Corporation of Odisha. The state was a guarantor for the power distribution companies, which had taken loans from various organisations.
Trade union leader Ramesh Satpathy said: "The system is on the verge of collapse. We have been drawing the attention of the government since 2009, but no concrete step has been taken so far to address the issue."
Energy minister Pranab Prakash Das said: "Steps are being taken to improve the power scenario. Things will change for the better shortly."