Tura: Facing unprecedented load shedding lasting over 10 hours every day, along with countless power cuts of increased durations, the entire Garo Hills region of Meghalaya is currently sweating and seething with anger. Adding salt to the wounds are some absolutely abnormal bills, some as high as Rs 16,000 sent by the MePDCL, forcing frustrated residents to question the government over what exactly is going on.
The region faces at least 8 hours of load shedding every day with most of these taking place between 11 PM to 7 AM. This routine has become gruesome for residents who have been spending sleepless nights.
“This has become a cruel joke being perpetrated upon us in the Garo Hills region. With no rains in the region, temperatures have soared to previously unheard of heights and we are being forced to go through this everyday routine. How can the state make its residents suffer this way despite us paying our electricity bills,” asked Rongjeng resident, JR Sangma.
To escape the heat this afternoon, many of Sangma’s friends rushed towards the stream beside Rongjeng to cool themselves. Every tree in the area has now become an air conditioner for those looking to escape the June heat.
For residents of Tura, load shedding is something no one is getting used to especially in the wake of a rainless April and May, with June’s advent making no difference. Temperatures have soared to record heights and there seems no hope of rainfall at least until the next week, the situation appears grim for locals.
“We are not able to sleep through the night as even our inverters don’t get enough time to charge. Everyone, including my young child and my old parents wake up immediately after current shuts off at 11 PM as it is unbearably hot. We try to get some sleep between 2 AM and 4 PM but the thought electricity will be shut off at 4 AM until 7 keeps us awake,” said one Biju Saha.
Many residents have now begun to question the almost 2 month power rationing over what the power department called an overcharge of power by the state.
“One would expect that overcharging from the grid would only affect for a month or so but tell us seriously as why we are still facing this problem this month as well. Is the government so poor that it cannot pay for electricity to save us from this relentless heat or is the MeECL so mired in corruption that it has eaten into everything?” asked activist Maxbirth Momin.
The woes of residents do not even end there. Many residents have complained that despite their bills being updated as soon they get them, they have been given inflated bills by the MePDCL.
“Firstly there is such a lot of load shedding despite which I have got bills of over Rs 10,000. We have two rooms in the house and other than a fridge, nothing else. Imagine our shock at the bill. What is even more interesting is another neighbor who runs an auto rickshaw and lives in a one room house got a bill of over Rs 11,000,” said a resident of Mody Nagar locality on condition of anonymity.
Interestingly, inflated bills have become more common after the installation of smart meters to replace the old ones.
For residents of the warmest parts of Garo Hills, it is like living in a furnace with relentless power cuts along with the ‘planned’ load shedding. To make matters worse is the fact that when power is restored in the area, voltage is extremely low.
The irony of the fact, according to most residents of the area is the fact that the state’s power minister, AT Mondal, is actually a representative of the place.
“What can be more ironic than that? Everyone here is being tortured by the sweltering heat which begins as early as 6 AM. The heat is relentless and for school children and the elderly the situation is unbearable. We are at our tether’s end when relief will come. We want to work with the government but at this rate, things will only get worse,” stated Phulbari resident, Samgar R Sangma.
“We still have more than 30 power cuts on a daily basis. This is above and beyond the load shedding. Our lives have become a living hell due to the weather and us not really being blessed with electricity,” added another resident.
Baghmara, Williamnagar, Ampati, Resubelpara
The situation for residents in all these places is the same but in varying ‘degrees’.
“When you stay in a cold place, the pain of those bearing the searing heat through the day and the not being able to sleep the entire night, does not get to you. I would like to request our ministers and MLAs to come and sleep in our homes and bear through everything we are bearing. You wouldn’t last a day without your inverters and generators to pull you through,” said a resident of Mendipathar in NGH.
Most people in the region can be seen weary eyed due to a lack of sleep while markets across the region have generally become bereft of customers as sleep habits have changed and no one wants to venture out during the day.
The situation is unlikely to improve very soon though whether the state has actually made any real attempt at alternatives to tide over the situation remains unanswered.
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“I think people need to now get down to the streets to protest this gross violation of rights. Electricity is an essential commodity and not a luxury and its denial is akin to snatching the right to life of people, especially in this hot and humid weather,” felt Dainadubi resident, WR Marak.
Many are now of the opinion that going forward, voters should not request for money or CGI sheets from their MLA candidates but now ask for inverters and generators. Solar would do just fine as well, they felt.
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