600m people left without electricity in latest Indian power cut
Hundreds of millions of people across India were left without power yesterday in the world’s worst-ever blackout, trapping miners, stranding train travellers and plunging hospitals into darkness when electricity grids collapsed for the second time in two days.
Stretching from Assam, near China, to the Himalayas and the north-western deserts of Rajasthan, the power cut – the second in as many days – covered states where half of India’s 1.2 billion people live and embarrassed the government, which has failed to build up enough power capacity to meet soaring demand.
RN Nayak, chairman of the state-run Power Grid Corporation, said: “Even before we could figure out the reason for yesterday’s failure, we had more grid failures today.”
By nightfall, power was back up in the capital, New Delhi, and much of the north, but a senior official said only a third of the supply was restored in the rural state of Uttar Pradesh, home to about 200 million people.
The outages hurt Indians’ pride as the country seeks to emerge as a major force on the international stage.
“Power is a very basic amenity and situations like these should not occur,” said Unnayan Amitabh, 19, in New Delhi, before giving up on the underground system and flagging down an auto-rickshaw to get home.
“They talk about big-ticket reforms but can’t get something as essential as power supply right.”
Power minister Sushilkumar Shinde blamed the system collapse on some states drawing more than their share of electricity from the over-burdened grid, but Uttar Pradesh’s top civil servant for energy said outdated transmission lines were at fault.
As the crisis dragged into the evening, Mr Shinde was promoted, becoming India’s home minister, its top internal security official. The promotion had been planned as part of a greater Cabinet shuffle before he presided over the world’s two worst power cuts.
Asia’s third-largest economy suffers a peak-hour power deficit of about 10 per cent, despite the fact that 25 per cent to 40 per cent of Indians are not connected to the national grid.
Two hundred miners were stranded in three deep coal shafts in the state of West Bengal when their electric elevators stopped working. Eastern Coalfields Limited official Niladri Roy said workers at the mines, one of which is 3,000ft deep, were not in danger and were being taken out.
Train stations in Kolkata were swamped and traffic jammed the streets after government offices closed early in the coastal city of five million people.
The power failed in some major city hospitals and office buildings had to fire up diesel generators. But by mid-evening, services had been restored on the New Delhi metro system.
On Monday, India was forced to buy extra power from sources including the tiny neighbouring kingdom of Bhutan to help it recover from a blackout that hit more than 300 million people.
Indians took to social networking sites to ridicule the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, in part for promoting Mr Shinde despite the power cuts.
Narendra Modi, an opposition leader and chief minister in Gujarat, a state that enjoys a surplus of power, was scornful.
He said on Twitter: “With poor economic management UPA has emptied the pockets of common man; kept stomachs hungry with inflation & today pushed them into darkness.”
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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