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The process of electrification commenced in India almost concurrently with developed world in 1880s, with establishment of a small hydroelectric power station in Darjeeling. However, commercial production and distribution started in 1889 in Calcutta ( now Kolkata), some 17 years after New York and 11 years after London.

When India became independent in 1947, the country had a power generating capacity of 1,362 MW. Generation and distribution of electrical power was carried out primarily by private utility companies such as Calcutta Electric. Power was available only in a few urban centers; rural areas and villages did not have electricity. After independence, all new power generation, transmission and distribution in the rural sector and the urban centers (which was not served by private utilities) came under the purview of State and Central government agencies. State Electricity Boards (SEBs) were formed in all the states.

Legal provisions to support and regulate the sector were put in place through the Indian Electricity Act, 1910. Shortly after independence, a second Act - The Electricity (Supply) Act, 1948 was formulated, paving the way for establishing Electricity Boards in the states of the Union.

In 1960s and 70s, enormous impetus was given for expansion of distribution of electricity in rural areas. It was thought by policy makers that as the private players were small and did not have required resources for the massive expansion drive, the production of power was reserved for the public sector in the Industrial Policy Resolution of 1956. Since then, almost all new investment (barring those by existing 'Licensees') in power generation, transmission and distribution has been made in the public sector. Most of the private players were bought out by state electricity boards.

From the installed capacity of only 1,362mw in 1947, has increased to 97000 MW as on March 2000 which has since crossed 100,000 MW mark India has become sixth largest producer and consumer of electricity in the world equaling the capacities of UK and France combined. The number of consumers connected to the Indian power grid exceeds is 75 million. India's power system today with its extensive regional grids maturing in to an integrated national grid, has millions of kilometers of T & D lines criss-crossing diverse topography of the country.

However, the achievements of India's power sector growth looks phony on the face of huge gaps in supply and demand on one side and antediluvian generation and distribution system on the verge of collapse having plagued by inefficiencies, mismanagement, political interference and corruption for decades, on the other.

Indian power sector is at the cross road today. A paradigm shift is in escapable- for better or may be for worse.


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  History -Electricity in Kolkata
India's Power Sector : Problems & Prospects
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