Saturday, November 29, 2014

Renewable Energy Sources to Replace Diesel-based Power: TERI Submits Feasibility Report

Renewable Energy Sources to Replace Diesel-based Power
TERI Submits Feasibility Report

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has completed a feasibility study of 6 Islands - North Andaman, Middle Andaman, South Andaman, Little Andaman, Baratang and Car Nicobar to explore the possibility of shifting from Diesel based power generation to sustainable and economically feasible renewable energy sources.

A presentation was given to the Lt. Governor on 28th November’2014 on the feasibility study report by Sr. Fellow Ujjwal Bhattacharjee of TERI in presence of senior officers of Administration and engineers of Electricity Department.

On the direction of Lieutenant Governor, the Electricity Department had engaged The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) to conduct a feasibility study in two phases to explore the potential in 6 Islands of A&N to phase out diesel based power supply.

 According to the Feasibility Study Report, North Andaman can meet its 100% energy requirements from renewable sources i.e. from the existing hydro plant and further supported by rooftop and ground mounted Solar power plants.

In South Andaman, Port Blair alone has a potential of at least 3 MW Rooftop Solar Power by utilizing the roofs of existing commercial and government buildings. There is reasonable wind power potential in Collinpur, South Andaman but the existing road which is very narrow and has sharp bends will be a bottleneck for shifting the wind turbine blades to the site. A separate study has to be made after receipt of the exact size of turbine blades for shifting of wind turbine to the site through the existing road.

In the existing 5 MW Solar Power Plant at Garacharma, a 3 MW energy storage for 1 Hour at a cost of Rs. 6-10 Crores can arrest the present intermittency problem in the Solar power output due to cloud passage.

Car Nicobar has the potential for a 2.4 MW biomass power plant which will save about 2500 KL diesel worth Rs. 15 Crores annually.

A total of 8 MW Rooftop Solar Power can be established on the roofs of existing commercial and government buildings in these six islands. The investment required will be about Rs. 80 Crores and by which we will save at least 6000 Kilo Liters of diesel worth Rs. 40 Crores annually. The investment in biomass and solar power plants will be paid back in two years.

After the presentation the Lt. Governor directed both Electricity Department and TERI to prepare an actionable plan for phase-wise implementation/execution of the findings of feasibility study report.

Ujjwal Bhattacharjee further informed that a team of Sr. Scientists of TERI will conduct a workshop in the 2nd week of December to educate the engineers of Electricity Department about exploitation of renewable energy for replacement diesel based power generation.

Lieutenant Governor has directed TERI to invite the media to attend this workshop for wider dissemination about renewable energy prospects for A&N Islands.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Interview: Lt Gen A K Singh, Lieutenant Governor | Shedding the Shroud of Secrecy

Interview: Lt Gen A K Singh, Lieutenant Governor
Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Shedding the 
Shroud of Secrecy

By Zubair Ahmed

After taking charge as Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 16 months back, Lt Gen (Retd) A K Singh, has brought a sea-change in the approach of the Administration breaking the shroud of secrecy around everything. Departing from the '"ignore and be secure" attitude of various Administrators that the Union Territory has seen, Lt Gen A K Singh is more visible, vocal, responsive and accessible. In a long chat on various issues lingering around for quite sometime, the Lieutenant Governor clears the perceptions and apprehensions of the Islanders. He delves in-depth into almost all issues including his idea about the Islands and the way ahead.

What is your idea of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and its significance to the nation?

Andaman and Nicobar Islands are as much an integral part of India as any part of the mainland, notwithstanding the fact that they are 1200 kilometres away. The territory has a historical connection that goes back many centuries. It is also deeply rooted in our freedom struggle.

The territory has a great strategic location. The Islands straddle the maritime gateway to the Bay of Bengal. The world’s busiest shipping lanes pass just to the South of us. Because of the unique location of the Islands, India can dominate both the Bay of Bengal and play an important role in Indo-Pacific transit. Recognizing this, the nation has located the first tri-service operational command in these Islands.

Of late, there is an idea that the Islands rather than a Strategic Post can act as a Springboard for economic engagement with South-east Asia and beyond. Does this sentiment resonate in the Centre or is it a voice emanating from the Islands?

Yes, there is a difference in India’s position today. With these Islands as its base, India can be both a net security provider in the region as well as act as a catalyst in the economic engagement with the countries in the Southeast Asia and beyond. I think the time has come, where we have to also explore the advantages that Andaman and Nicobar Islands offer us. And I am happy to state that this fact is now being appreciated by the Central government too.

In today’s globalised economy, national security is an outcome not just of creation of military assets, but is also dependent upon economic dynamism.

The location of the Island enables India to play an important role in the region to extend assistance to our neighborhood in crisis such as the earthquake cum tsunami of 2004, as also deal with maritime security threats such as piracy and terrorism.

The concept is understood and articulated very well, but translating it into action is the real challenge.

Will this initiative be driven from Andamans or Centre?

I think, the initial drive has to be from the Islands with full support from the Centre. We have to play the role of a catalyst and once the platform is set, major initiatives will happen at the behest of Govt of India, which has the capability. I have great faith that in the next five to ten years, we will see a changed Andaman Islands keeping intact our ecological and tribal concerns.

As I mentioned, the real challenge is translating this concept into action. We are lagging behind in communication as well as connectivity. You may find, some slow but sure steps are being taken in this direction. I hope by next year, we will have reasonable bandwidth that might help us overcome the existing satellite based problems.

It is also heartening that all our initiatives have been approved by the Centre. Our thrust this year has been on both transport connectivity and communications infrastructure. For the later, we have obtained a special allocation from Govt of India for hiring transponders from ISRO/abroad.

Moreover, Government of India has accepted and earmarked Rs 1700/- crores for laying the undersea cable. And when that happens, the Islands will be ready to take off. And the purpose is to make Andaman and Nicobar Islands fully economically self-developed so that all other activities can start.

We are also looking at more international flights landing here, and restarting connectivity between Port Blair and Phuket in collaboration with Andaman Chamber of Commerce.

The Australian mission, which recently paid a visit to the Islands were very forthcoming in engagement in the field of fisheries and skill development.

In the last ten years, our diplomatic relations with the littoral countries were at the worst. And China was successfully setting up the string of pearls. And now, the Ministry of Home Affairs have rejected the proposal of Andamans being part of the Vanilla chain of Islands. Does this bode well for the Islands?

There is a change in our foreign policy now. The recent visit of our Prime Minister to Japan, interaction with China and now to Myanmar manifests the change.

There are two corridors in our engagement with Southeast Asia -  air/ship corridor and the Northeast corridor. And when infrastructure, connectivity and communication develop here, Andaman and Nicobar will become a natural corridor for engagement.

On Andamans being not part of the Vanilla chain of Islands, it’s the decision of Govt of India and we support that decision. These are issues of strategic nature to be decided by the Govt of India. I think, it won’t be proper for me to comment on what the aim of this initiative is.

It seems there is an underlying principle that the Islands will remain a Defence fortress. If we accept that fact, why can’t we have a roadmap keeping in view the limitations, without expressing so much excitement and hope?

Excitement and hope has to be there. It’s a wrong notion that we are a Defence fortress. I don’t think India is scared of anybody. There was a time; when we lacked the capability of monitoring these 572 Islands spread in 750 kms. Today, we have a tri-services operational command, which may not be fully endowed with. However, the plan is in place. The problems that we face here are  peace-time threats – poaching, illegal fishing etc.

India’s stature today is of a different nature. Except for lingering problems across the Line of Control or Line of Actual Control in Pakistan and China, we hope that in due course, that too will get resolved. But, in Andaman and Nicobar, there is no dispute or conflict. We are fully committed to develop the Islands.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands comprises of Ecology, Tribes, Strategic Outpost, Settlers, Tourism & Development. There have been conflicts between different factors. Recent example is the spat between Tribals in Kamorta with Defence regarding land. It’s going on for a long time now.

There are basic inherent issues that exist sometimes. And, Andaman and Nicobar Admn is fully conscious and committed to resolve such conflicts. Mostly, issues arise because of wrong perceptions. The Administration’s objective is to clear those perceptions.

In the Kamorta issue, the tribals has been assured that their lives and their way of passage is fully protected and the Defence setup in Kamorta is there to provide them security and not detrimental to them. I can’t see any inherent conflict here. It was an issue of mishandling at local level.

I personally visited the place, and spoke to their leaders. And, the Chief Secretary and DGP were also flown immediately and the situation was brought under control. We have also told the Defence to handle this issue with more sensitivity unlike done in the past. The people should feel secure and not threatened as the Defence belongs to every one of us. In my view, the Kamorta issue is just a perception.

There is no conflict between Tribals and Defence.  The Defence requires land for infrastructure development, as part of their larger plan.  And, we also need to realize that Defence has not denied use of their facilities to the civilians. The airstrips in Port Blair and Car Nicobar belongs to the Defence, and its being used for civilian purposes. Wherever it's possible there has to be sharing of resources without prejudice to the Defence.

The land requirements of Defence will be met by the Andaman Administration and they have to keep those needs to what actually is required rather than base it on authorization. An army unit is authorized so many acres of land, and the same method of authorization cannot be applied in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as we are land deficient.

Coast Guard is also separately demanding land in Kamorta. They have been informed to share the land with Navy.

Is there a mediation going on between the Tribals and Defence to break the deadlock?

There is no question of mediation, as we already have a civil-military liaison, which is a formalized affair.

LG's Advisory Council seems to be an esteemed body with good representation. But, don't you think the Admn is approaching issues with a closed and prejudiced mind? Most of the decisions are already taken and the representatives become just bystanders without much say? For eg. ANCOL, AYUSH etc...

The LG’s Advisory Council has been re-activated after 3 years and attempt has been made to broad base it by including representatives from all stakeholder groups. I agree that the Council does not have mandatory powers. However, issues which have far reaching consequences for the Islands are being placed before the Council.

I think the impression that stakeholders are ignored is wrong. Even in the case of sports, there were two views.

The Admn wanted to merge sports with education department, for easy management. But the overwhelming sense of the Advisory Council was against merger, and to empower and reinforce Sports Department.. And, based on the opinion of the majority in the Council, we changed the view.

In some other Administrative as well as legal issues, we have to abide by the rules and laws in force. We cannot base our decisions on majority view.

On Ayush, clear instruction was given that the hospital should not be shifted to any temporary location, against the wishes of the stakeholders. But, the Ayush personnel themselves wanted it to be shifted for a larger benefit.

Secondly, I have directed to make the present Ayush to be better than the earlier location. I also want a group of eminent persons, and media persons to visit the Ayush building and offer their suggestions. Moreover, I have directed that an hourly bus shuttle service to be started between Ayush and GB Pant Hospital from 9 am to 5 pm.

But on some issues like the Andaman College, there was a general feeling that we could have looked at rural area. The students overwhelmingly wanted it in Port Blair. I did not go by this argument too.

The final decision to locate the college at Chakkargaon was based on the opinion by APWD that building cannot be completed by next academic session. The land at different locations examined by the Admn were either not meeting the mandatory land requirements or had CRZ issues requiring more than 5 months to clear. And, there was an ultimatum from Pondicherry University  to withdraw the affiliation, if we do not have the next batch.

We are committed to develop all areas with equal focus including North Andaman and Campbell Bay. There are many projects in the pipeline. We are in an advance stage for setting up of a community college in rural Andaman. We are also planning to reactivate the process of bringing a NIT, which we want to establish in South Andaman. I reiterate that the impression that LG's Advisory Council is just a rubber stamp is wrong.

My understanding about the problem here is that the reason behind many pending projects are the shroud of secrecy around it and lack of a platform for people to express their feelings. Once, they get a chance to express themselves, things look clear.

In the medical college issue too, the response is tremendous. For a post of Dean, we have more than 10 candidates. For forty posts of specialists, we got 269 applications.

In the absence of a democratic setup in policy making, the onus is on bureaucracy to frame policies as well as take decisions. There is rampant indecisiveness among them, blaming  incompetence as well as lack of expertise in various sectors. Isn't the past baggage of the bureaucracy the root cause of pessimism and negativity in the Islands?

No, I think it is a generational issue. The present generation, unlike the old is positive. And, its not just applicable to Andamans, its a pan-Indian phenomenon. Its quite obvious in Andamans as its a small place. The ethos of the old generation was "Let me not lose" - a very defensive mindset. But the present generation is - I can, I shall and I will.

I can speak of my tenure only. When I joined the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, I attempted to analyse the reason why some of the sectors were in a limbo - either the required projects had not been conceived or the projects had not taken off. I think there was a diffidence regarding sharing details of various aspects related to projects with the public. I attempted to break through this shroud of secrecy and bring in some transparency by sharing the details with all the stakeholders. This becomes especially important for long term projects.

As far as the bureaucracy is concerned, the same people who work here works in Delhi too. Bureaucracy like any other section of the society, is a mixed bag. We have officials who are highly motivated, self-driven and outstanding but we have also officials who need cajoling and pushing. Let me however add, that working in the environment prevalent here is challenging and we must give credit where it is due.

In the last 16 months, there is a change in attitude. I am driving it as it is possibly my style. I don't have the patience to wait for the file to circumvent and reach me. I am driving myself in fifth gear. And from neutral, they have come up to third gear. They too will reach their high point when there is passion, and they connect to the job in a desirable manner.

I can assure you that at the senior level, there is no corruption. Maybe, you can blame for lack of passion for addressing the issues of the public. It all starts top down top first. There is passivity because of lack of infrastructure and opportunities.

However, I feel that self-correction is needed even by the media on some issues. One is the streak of negativism that prevails in the reporting. Surely, something good must be happening. It is important to recognize and highlight the good work being done. This will boost the morale of both the public as well as those doing good work.

There are many announcements made by you at different occasions specially related with infrastructural deficiencies. - In construction of roads, you ordered for a technical evaluation for long-lasting roads, in  a meeting at Kanyapuram, you made APWD commit to make a children's park operational within a month. But in most of the cases, there is no follow up. Don't you feel that the monitory mechanism is unable to catch up with your announcements?

As a Lieutenant Governor, my aim is to allow the administrative chain to function and monitor itself. However, key projects are monitored at both in the Raj Niwas and at the level of the Chief Secretary.

As you have pointed out, monitoring mechanism might be lagging at times.  At senior level, monitoring needs to be there, which is sometimes missing. I have been telling why everything has to be done by the Lieutenant Governor.

An Officer on Special Duty has been appointed in the Raj Niwas specifically for this purpose. Now, I will seriously look into this and put in place a proper monitoring system, so that all announcements made are honored. As far as the technical evaluation of road construction is concerned, one sitting was held and now it needs to be taken forward.

What is the status of Bambooflat-Chatham bridge?

The Bambooflat Chatham bridge is an essential requirement of the Islands, especially people of rural South Andaman. The cost of the project is going to be very high. it is not possible to support this bridge from the Andaman and Nicobar plan fund. Therefore, it has to be taken up under Central assistance like the undersea cable. The feasibility report itself was coming to Rs 10 crores. If we don't get a firm affirmation from the Centre, the amount spent would be a colossal waste.

The matter is seriously being pursued and I already had a meeting with Cabinet Minister Nitin Gadkariji.

Till now, the issue of the bridge was of emotional nature. Economics doesn't work on emotional principles. From an emotional desire, we have already brought it into the centre stage up to the Ministry level.

Although, the economics does not suggest a bridge if we look at the number of people, and the Centre only funds bridges where National Highways are involved. We have apprised the Minister that in the long run, we can shorten the route of Andaman Trunk Road and take this route and reduce the distance by many kilometers. And we have also informed him that in the Islands, there is only one National Highway and we cannot apply the same logic here.

The Minister has also discussed it with his Secretary and asked to look into low-cost technology for the bridge. Both options of tunnel as well as bridge is being looked into. Eventually, a bridge or tunnel will come. As the issue is being examined we need to take the Centre along. And it will be my endeavor to get this bridge. I am of the belief that in a year or so, we will get a firm approval from the Centre.

We have acute shortage of land for developmental works. And the resources are also scarce and limited. Isn't it wise to implement Inner Line Permit to overcome such predicaments before its late? Are you opposed to the idea of Inner Line Permit?

I am not opposed to the concept of Inner Line Permit. It was discussed at length in the LG's Advisory Council. There are two issues - illegal migration of foreigners and Indians visiting the Islands and settling here. Indians have no restrictions except in tribal reserve areas. There are historical reasons for migration. People migrate for natural betterment of their lives. We are seriously looking into illegal migration of foreigners and police is on the job.

Now there is the question of carrying capacity. In the last officially stated position there is no problem with the population and is sustainable as of now.

I feel that moving in the direction of Inner Line Permit or restricting entry of Indians needs to be with caution and care. Ministry of Home Affairs had their reservations too on this issue. As we know the original inhabitants of this place are the indigenous tribes. And the descendents of freedom fighters, and later people from various parts of the country have been settling here periodically. How philosophically can one who settled in the Islands in 1994 justify restriction of somebody coming here in 2014?

Secondly, a committee is appointed under the Chief Secretary with the MP and other leaders of political parties as members to sit together with all facts and figures and see how we have to take it forward, if at all we require it. We have to go about it in a very methodical manner and based on the report of the Committee, a decision will be taken.

I personally feel that the case should be based on facts rather than emotions. It is same as the case, where everybody had a perception that 90% of jobs will be taken by non-Islanders. I had a clear idea in my mind. If more than 20% of jobs had gone away from the Islands, I would have cancelled the recruitment process.

On rampant encroachment in various forms

I would like to unequivocally state that encroachment is no longer acceptable. regardless of what may have happened in the past, when the Islands were still developing, there is absolutely no justification for any kind of encroachment of public land under the present circumstances. I would like to make it clear to all that encroachment of land will be treated as a criminal offense. Cases of earlier encroachments will be treated in accordance with various rules and regulations and judgments of the Supreme Court.

The land in our Islands is divided into four zones. There are sufficient land in rural areas like Dollygunj, Beodnabad and Bambooflat, which comes under the CRZ -III zone. Why can't we take initiatives to convert it into Notified Developed Zone so that we don't have to be in a fix when we need land for developmental projects?

I don't think we have looked into this issue seriously. There is merit in this suggestion, and we have to take some serious initiative so that more land is available for future projects.

Why is Andaman still a bad investment destination? Private sector is apprehensive as we can see the inordinate delay in Taj project at Havelock, CG Earth at Long Island and Soma Project in Neil Island still hanging fire. Is it because of stringent laws or bureaucratic red-tapism?

A major focus area has been to revive the spirit of free enterprise in these Islands. People are now feeling confident and coming forward to look for investment opportunities or starting individual enterprises. Tourism has to be the mainstay of economy in the Islands. The vision is to promote sustainable tourism in a unique and eco-friendly manner keeping in view the fragile ecology and indigeneous tribes. We intend to position Andamans as a uninque brand of its own.

Yes, its a fact that there are challenging circumstances for private enterprises. They have to comply with various environmental, coastal regulation and Island Protection Zone related stipulations. The issue of delay in various projects might be related with the environmental regulations.

But, if there is an agreement between two parties, they need to honour it and comply with the laws in force.

Now, if somebody buys agricultural land without it being converted into commercial, how can someone blame for the delay?

I am very sure that with improvement in infrastructure, things will change. And, with the present infrastructure, we can easily accommodate another one and a half lakh tourists, that too if we extend it during off-season, when airfare and hotel fares are also low.

What about exploitation of marine resources and what is the status of Tuna Mission?

We are reviving and looking into this aspect too. As I told you, the Australian mission was forthcoming in the fisheries sector. They are also deliberating in starting food processing units and training with local collaborators. We need to also promote local entrepreneurs to sustain it.

There is so much talk about the experts being involved in the ANTRI project. Of late, its alleged that the bureaucrats are overshadowing the experts even in policy decisions. There is disgruntlement and resentment among the experts, who feels neglected and sidelined.

The Administration and the people of the Islands are conscious about the welfare of the indigenous communities of the Islands and all possible measures are being taken for the welfare and protection of the tribal population. All issues of the tribes are being handled with due care and attention in consultation with Anthropologists and other subject experts.

But, one thing needs to be cleared. We are responsible as well as accountable for our tribes. If a decision or policy fizzles out, the Administration is answerable. And, experts won't be held responsible. Hence, its mandatory for us to be cautious in every step concerned with the tribes.

The Andaman and Nicobar Tribal Research and Training Institute (ANTRI) has been set up to carry out research based on the questions which may arise in the field and to suggest research driven welfare policy in consultation with the communities for whom such policies are being framed. A conference on the theme 'Thinking Futures: The PVTGs of the A&N Islands" is being organised in the first week of December 2014, wherein experts and researchers of repute will deliberate on the measures and offer their views.

There is severe shortage of research driven and well trained ground staff working among the tribes. Moreover it looks like hydra-headed with so many commands - ANTRI - Tribal Welfare Director - Secretary Tribal  - AAJVS - Executive Secretary etc..

I have already informed them to have proper coordination between various agencies and make the work more harmonious. We are aware of the shortage of staff and will surely look into it.

The recent Jarawa documentary by foreign filmmakers exposed the vulnerability of the Jarawa Tribal Reserve. Your take.

The recent incident of some foreign tourists venturing into the Jarawa Tribal Reserve and making documentary on the community has been seriously viewed by the Admn.  Criminal complaint has been filed and legal notice issued to immediately remove all illegal material from the website and social media, which has been complied with.

I have also directed that the Police Forces, Forest, AAJVS/Tribal Welfare, Fisheries, Coast Guard and Indian Navy should work in a coordinated manner to ensure the security of Jarawa Tribal Reserve area in general and the Western Coast of Andaman Island in particular.

You have changed the way of functioning of the Administration. Are you satisfied with the pace of development?

While it would not be appropriate to comment on our achievements since that is for the people to say, I would like to state that right from day one, I have committed myself to bring about transparency in all dealings in the Admn., besides making it responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people of the Islands. I am reasonably satisfied in this regard, though more remains to be done.

All issues and projects that have been pending for decades have been galvanized, including welfare aspects. One can say without hesitation that a new vibrancy has been introduced in the way governance is being delivered in the Islands. Anyone is welcome to come and see for themselves, or offer positive suggestions for betterment.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Highlights: Audit of Power Transmission and Distribution

Highlights: Audit of Power Transmission and Distribution

  • Feeder Control Room at Bambooflat ready for commissioning by the end of November 2014.
  • A 33 KV sea-link line between Surya Chakra Power Plant at Bambooflat and Chatham Power House by December 2014.
  • Proposes to replace the overhead bare conductors with insulated cables in the Rural areas.
  • Establish 02 sub-stations in South Andaman.
  • In Havelock NTPC will install a 3 MW Power Plant in 2015.
  • In North & Middle Andaman, a 33 KV Double Circuit exclusive transmission line on towers will be established from Kadamtala to Diglipur with sub-stations at 10 locations.
  • Indoor and Outdoor Circuit Breakers of some power houses will also be replaced.
  • The total cost to carry out the works proposed in the Long term measure will be approximately Rs. 300.00 Crores for which provision will be kept in the Annual Plan of 2015-16 and 2016-17.
  • The projects are expected to be completed within next two years.
  • Electricity Department is meeting out the parameters of the “Standard of Performance” laid down by JERC for repair and restoration of power supply.
  • The minimum time to restore the power supply in-case of fuse failure laid down by JERC is 04 Hrs. in Urban area and 08 Hrs. in Rural areas.
  • Power supply availability in all the 19 major inhabited Islands is about 95% on an average in a month which is better than all other parts of India.
  • The per unit cost of power generation and transmitting it to the consumer end is Rs. 24.70 whereas the average realization from the general public is Rs.4.49 only, one of the highest subsidized rates of power in India.
  • Lt. Governor has already given direction to all the Govt. Departments to reduce their power consumption by 10%.
  • Process of establishing a LNG Based Power Plant at South Andaman for providing environmental friendly, clean and low cost power to the general public.
  • The Administration is also striving hard to establish number of Renewable Energy projects like Solar and Wind Energy Power Plants.

ANI Admn Makes Audit of Power Transmission and Distribution Public

ANI Admn Makes Audit of Power Transmission and Distribution Public
LG directs Electricity Deptt. to be more Responsive to Public

Port Blair, Nov. 10: With a view to ensuring uninterrupted power supply by augmenting the electricity generation, the Electricity Department has come out with an action plan. According to an official press release, the action plan would consist of both short & long term remedial measures. As for addressing immediate problem, while a Feeder Control Room is ready for commissioning by the end of this month, a 33 KV sea link lines between Surya Chakra Power Plant at Bambooflat and Chatham Power House will become operational by December, 2014.
A presentation was made on 05.11.2014 to Hon’ble Lt. Governor by the Secretary (Power) in presence of Chief Secretary & Other Senior Officers of Administration regarding the report of Audit of Transmission & Distribution System. In the presentation, the entire scenario of electricity generation was explained threadbare by the Department.
Power Generation in A&N Islands is a “Stand alone system” i.e. the Electricity System set up to generate power and distribute electricity in a specified area without connection to the grid. Moreover, the electricity distribution system in A&N Islands cannot be compared to the grid of mainland as the “Grid” is a high voltage back bone system of interconnected transmission lines, sub-station and generating plants.

The highest voltage level in A&N Islands is 33 Kilo Volts (KV) which comes under distribution network and the transmission network starts from 66 KV onwards as per Standard Electrical Practice. The power is transmitted to the consumers through 4734 Kms. HT & LT distribution line and distributed through 889 Distribution Transformers.

Due to the peculiar geographical location of A&N Islands, during both South West and North East Monsoon season’s inclement weather, heavy rain and high wind pressure are observed. During such weather conditions, faults and damages in the overhead T&D system, is unavoidable. In the absence of a grid, the magnitude of the fault current due to any fault in the system collapses the complete generation sources.

However, the impact of same could be reduced by adopting preventive measures and strengthening & up-gradation of the system.
As per the Audit Report the major faults prone zones are Rural South Andaman area, Kadamtala to Rangat, Rangat to Mayabunder and Mayabunder to Diglipur and the causes of power interruptions are the majority of distribution system comprises of overhead lines with bare conductor passing through thick vegetation and forest; most of the overhead lines of aluminum conductor have corroded due to oxidation and ageing and due to heavy rains and high speed wind, the branches & trees falls on these lines.

According to the release, the Long term measure aims at improving the power supply reliability the Electricity Department which proposes to replace the overhead bare conductors with insulated cables in the Rural areas and establish 02 sub-stations in South Andaman. In Havelock NTPC will install a 3 MW Power Plant in 2015. In North & Middle Andaman, a 33 KV Double Circuit exclusive transmission line on towers will be established from Kadamtala to Diglipur with sub-stations at 10 locations. Indoor and Outdoor Circuit Breakers of some power houses will also be replaced. The total cost to carry out the works proposed in the Long term measure will be approximately Rs. 300.00 Crores for which provision will be kept in the Annual Plan of 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The Ministry of Power will be requested for providing assistance for said proposed schemes. Some of the said projects are expected to be completed within next two years.

The Department also felt it necessary to clarify its stands in the pretext of a report in a section of the local press, on 4th November 2014, that in spite of having limited resources, the Electricity Department is meeting out the parameters of the “Standard of Performance” laid down by JERC for repair and restoration of power supply. The minimum time to restore the power supply in-case of fuse failure laid down by JERC is 04 Hrs. in Urban area and 08 Hrs. in Rural areas. It is also a fact that the power supply availability in all the 19 major inhabited Islands is about 95% on an average in a month which is better than all other parts of India.

It would not be out of place to mention here that maintenance of smooth power supply is due to the hard work and commitment of the Engineers, Staff of Electricity Department and proper monitoring by Senior Officers. The power interruptions are being restored within the time limit specified by the JERC despite of several difficulties, hurdles and adverse weather conditions that too in dense forest areas.

The Lt. Governor during the presentation has appreciated the efforts of Electricity Department for maintaining regular power supply to the public with its limited resources and in adverse weather conditions. He also appreciated the action plan of the audit report conducted by the department. It is also a fact that the power which is made available to the general public of these islands is highly subsidized. The per unit cost of power generation and transmitting it to the consumer end is Rs. 24.70 whereas the average realization from the general public is Rs.4.49 only. This is again one of the highest subsidized rates of power in India.

The release further says that since, the major portion of budget is spent on generation of electricity by diesel, so there is a pressing need that each and every consumer to conserve electricity by reducing their consumption in a duty bound manner. In this regard, initiation has been taken by Lt. Governor himself by reducing the power consumption of Raj Niwas by 22.6% in a period April to October, 2014 as compared to previous year.

Meanwhile, the Lt. Governor has already given direction to all the Govt. Departments to reduce their power consumption by 10%. Each department has been asked to strictly follow and monitor their power consumption on regular basis. However, these instructions are not applicable to the essential services like Hospitals, Cold Storage etc.

The A&N Administration is also in process of establishing a LNG Based Power Plant at South Andaman for providing environmental friendly, clean and low cost power to the general public. Besides this the Administration is also striving hard to establish number of Renewable Energy projects like Solar and Wind Energy Power Plants.

The Lt. Governor has further directed during the presentation that any power cuts may be publicized through various print, audio and visual media. The Helpline numbers may also be published again for information of general public. He also directed that the normal timing in case of disruption of power supply may be informed to Superintending Engineer, Electricity Department and Secretary (Power). In case of any major power breakdown, the Chief Secretary also to be informed on priority. Conclusively, the Lt. Governor also directed the department to be more responsive and responsible to the general public, the press release added.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Survival International Opposes Documentary on Jarawas

Survival International Opposes Documentary on Jarawas

Organic Jarawa, the documentary film shot by French-duo Alexandre Dereims and Claire Beilvert by trespassing into the Jarawa Reserve, is drawing flak from all quarters especially activists and organizations.

Survival International has opposed the film saying that its against any illegal entry into Jarawa Reserve.

"Survival International is opposed to any illegal entry into the Jarawa's Reserve and has a strict policy against anyone trying to make contact with, or film, un-contacted or recently contacted tribal people," Sophie Grig, Campaigner, Survival International told The Light of Andamans.

"We always tell any journalist or filmmaker that they should not make any attempt to go into the Jarawa Reserve. Therefore we do not support the making or showing of the film, Organic Jarawa," Sophie said opposing the film which in no way helps the cause of Jarawa tribe.

As per the information available on the website of the filmmakers, they had visited the Jarawa Reserve and met the Jarawas several times during the last three years. Andaman and Nicobar Administration has filed a case against the filmmakers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jarawa Tragedy: Four Deaths Reported in Three Months. Investigation Still On?

Jarawa Tragedy: Four Deaths Reported in Three Months.
Investigation Still On?

Bureau Report

Kadamtala, Oct. 22: As many as four children of the Jarawa Tribe died during the past three months. The last death was recorded in September 2014 at Tirur. All these children were below the age of one year. The reason gathered is lack of Post Natal Care and administering of expired Allopathic medicines issued by the AAJVS.

While two children belonged to Tirur area, two others died at Punna Nallah and Choudhary Ghumai, inside the Jarawa Tribal Reserve.

“Unless we have a proper report on this from an expert, we cannot come to a conclusion,” said G. Theva Neethi Dhas, IAS, Secretary (Tribal Welfare) in the Andaman & Nicobar Administration.

When AC/LOA tried to investigate into the matter, it was learnt that there was sheer neglect on the part of the AAJVS when it comes to monitoring the health of the Jarawa tribe. All four children had died due to lack of proper post natal care and two among them were victims of expired medicines.

The investigation also revealed that the Jarawa are given medicines by the AAJVS when they complain of minor ailments but there is no proper watch on whether the course of medicines is completed. Documentary evidence revealed the Jarawa members in possession of expired stocks of medicines.

“We are enquiring into it”, said the Secretary Tribal Welfare.

“Being a medical issue, we have to consult a doctor before coming to any conclusion. There are allegations of expired medicines”, said Dhas.   

On being asked to comment on the issue, Dr. Vishwajit Pandya, Honorary Director of Andaman Nicobar Tribal Research Insititute (ANTRI) said he is well aware of the issue. Complaints with documentary evidences of neglect in health care of the tribe had been submitted to the concerned authorities soon after the incident. “Surprisingly nothing much has been done in the case”, Pandya added.

The Jarawa today number above 400 and live in a stretch of Tribal Reserve starting from Constance Bay in South Andaman to Lewis Inlet Bay in Middle Andaman. The death of four children amounts to a loss of one percent of the entire population of the tribe. Had there been a death in the so called civilized society due to neglect on the part of health department, the Andaman Administration under pressure would be forced to conduct Post Mortem examination through a Medical Board.

The loss of one percent of the Jarawa population does not seem to ring a bell among the authorities. This is evident from the kind and pace of enquiry being conducted. The incident is also a glaring example of what the so called civilized world has to offer the voiceless Jarawa of Andaman Islands.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jarawa Tribal Reserve: A Potemkin Village?

Jarawa Tribal Reserve:
A Potemkin Village?

By Zubair Ahmed

*[Potem'kin vil'lage: a pretentiously showy or imposing fa├žade intended to mask or divert attention from an embarrassing or shabby fact or condition.]

Is everything fine inside the Jarawa Reserve, especially during the last two years, when major steps were taken and stringent laws enacted to contain poaching of Jarawa resources as well as keep a tab on tourists ogling at them in the garb of visiting limestone caves?

Everybody was under the good impression that things are under control, and the syllabus is not yet out of context. However, the perception is deceptive. The constant lip-service did keep them away from the glare of media as well as the activists. Ecological and tribal concerns might have remained at the fore while discussing development, but the system never strained to do anything concrete to translate the concerns on the ground. Nevertheless, bureaucratic approach did enough irreparable damage.

When Alexandre and his team could hoodwink the whole system and enter the Jarawa Reserve, and remain with them undetected and unnoticed for days and weeks, that too several times during last three years, isn't it time to realize that many things are not right, and it might require some kind of willpower to accept the fact and take some bold decisions, without fear or favour.

From police, intelligence, defence, coast guard, forest and tribal dept, nobody had a clue about the Organic Jarawa documentary project, until Alexandre himself revealed it. Isn't it shocking that such kind of breach could be a potent threat to the security perceptions of the territory? Lots of questions can be poised why we were in dark about the incident.

Why such intelligence and security lapse on the side of our defence and police? How porous and vulnerable is our West Coast? Why the operations went undetected by the forest department inside the Reserve? What happened to all the tall talk about the strategic importance of the Islands, when the most sensitive part of the territory, already forbidden to the citizens of the country is wide open for someone who enters unnoticed and does whatever he wants?

In the face of such blatant lapse, how can the Administration claim that the tribe is well protected from evil forces? In fact, Alexandre and his team has proved how weak, our system is. He has proved beyond doubt that the territory is not protected as claimed. Instead of looking out, its time we look inside and plug the holes.

Why is there lack of coordination between different agencies involved? When we poised this question to Prof Vishwajit Pandya, a senior Anthropologist and Hony. Director, ANTRI, he said, “When the defence forces can have a combined command, why can’t the Islands have an “Environmental Force” involving all three agencies – Tribal Welfare, Police and Forest Dept. We need to see the picture in totality and not as separate entities. I had suggested this to the Administration, but the response is not encouraging.”

Whenever a breach is brought to the notice of police or forest by AAJVS, there begins a marathon blame-game. Conflicting interests play crucial role in the outcome, and most interestingly, what the Administrator can do is just appeal them to work in unison to achieve the desired ‘unknown’ goal!

The rhetoric that the Andaman and Nicobar Administration is committed to safeguard the interests of the vulnerable Jarawa tribe is nothing but a charade, or how did four small Jarawa kids lost their lives in the last three-four months, due to negligence of the pharmacist posted with AAJVS? Very strong documentary evidence proves that expired Amoxicillin and other drugs were administered to the tribes, and there were clear carelessness in attending to post-natal care of Jarawa babies, resulting in death. Why no action was taken when the matter was brought to the knowledge of the higher ups?

It’s true that ANTRI is playing a very vital role in redefining the discourse and addressing policy issues, and implementing very unique projects in education (Project Angkatha) and clothing (Project Kangapu) that would show results in the long run. The role of AAJVS in executing the projects designed by ANTRI is also encouraging. But, on the ground, there seems to be disconnect, which is shocking.

The Jarawas could keep the whole Organic Jarawa episode a secret for such a long time literally startles. In fact, the poachers or those collaborators, who helped the film crew holds more influence or the Jarawas trust them more than the AAJVS staff is a fact, which has serious repercussions.

“Normally Jarawas won’t say anything unless asked, and in this case when they got so much goodies from the film crew, they knew what to do,” says Prof. Pandya.

The conviction one can see on the ground does not reflect at the top echelons, which conveniently affects the whole process. Wary to take decisions, and the protracted delay inflicts the system. The suffocating check the bureaucrats exercise on the social workers and the experts will not help in yielding any results. Until and unless the system is liberated from the clutches of babus, whatever we get to see from inside the Reserve would be through some Alexandres, Thiery Falises or Oliver Blaises.

One needs to open eyes and do a reality check or when the bitter facts explode with full force, it would be very late.