( 4UMF NEWS ) Blackout Leaves 670 Million Without Power:
Grids supplying electricity to half of India’s 1.2 billion people collapsed on Tuesday, trapping coal miners, stranding train travelers and plunging hospitals into darkness in the second major blackout in as many days.
Stretching from Assam, near China, to the Himalayas and the northwestern deserts of Rajasthan, the outage was the worst to hit India in more than a decade and embarrassed the government, which has failed to build up enough power capacity to meet soaring demand.
“Even before we could figure out the reason for yesterday’s failure, we had more grid failures today,” said R. N. Nayak, chairman of the state-run Power Grid Corporation.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has vowed to fast-track stalled power and infrastructure projects as well as introduce free market reforms aimed at reviving India’s flagging economy. But he has drawn fire for dragging his feet.
By the afternoon rush-hour, only about 40 percent of power was back up. Electricity had not been restored to all of the sweltering capital, New Delhi, and streets were clogged with commuters trying to get home.
“It’s certainly shameful. Power is a very basic amenity and situations like these should not occur,” said Unnayan Amitabh, 19, an intern with HSBC bank in New Delhi, as he was giving up on the underground train 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.
Asia’s third-largest economy suffers a peak-hour power deficit of about 10 percent, dragging on economic growth.
“This is the second day that something like this has happened. I’ve given instructions that whoever overdraws power will be punished,” said Shinde, hours before he was promoted to interior minister in a cabinet reshuffle.
More than a dozen states with a population of 670 million people were without power. 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 700 meters (3,000 feet) 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 dilapidated coastal city of 5 million people.
The power failed in some major city hospitals and office buildings had to fire up diesel generators. By mid-evening, services had been restored on the New Delhi metro system.
On Monday, India was forced to buy extra power from the tiny neighboring kingdom of Bhutan to help it recover from a blackout that hit more than 300,000 million people.