India’s Blackout Heralded as “World’s Worst Modern Blackout”
More than 700 million people are without power in India in what is being heralded as the “world’s worst modern blackout” prompting fears of “protests and riots if the country’s electricity supply continues to fail to meet growing demands,” according to news reports.
On Tuesday, grids covering more than a dozen states broke down for the second time in two days stretching from Assam to the Himalayas and the deserts of Rajasthan. The blackout has trapped miners in three deep coal shafts in West Bengal, stranded train passengers in New Delhi and Kolkata and left major city hospitals, office buildings and homes in complete darkness. Hospitals and office buildings are now relying on diesel generators. Moreover, traffic is even worse than usual causing major traffic jams on the roads.
“We’ll have to wait for an hour or hour and a half, but till then we’re trying to restore metro, railway and other essential services,” Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told the media on Tuesday.
Shinde blamed the system collapse on some states drawing more than their share of electricity from the overstretched grid. Asia’s third-largest economy suffers a peak-hour power deficit of about 10 per cent, dragging on economic growth, according to news reports.
“This is the second day that something like this has happened. I’ve given instructions that whoever overdraws power will be punished,” adds Shinde.
India is now relying on its southern and western states’ grids to supply power to help restore services, according to officials. The blackout and lack of electricity has been made worse by the lack of rain in agricultural states, such as Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, in which farmers have less rain to irrigate crops and rely on electric pumps to draw water from wells.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised to “fast-track stalled power and infrastructure projects as well as introduce free market reforms aimed at reviving India’s flagging economy,” as per news reports.
“It’s certainly shameful. Power is a very basic amenity and situations like these should not occur,” Unnayan Amitabh, an intern with HSBC bank in Delhi, told reporters. “They talk about big ticket reforms but can’t get something as essential as power supply right.”
On Monday, India had to buy extra power from Bhutan to help it recover from a blackout that affected 300 million people, but on Tuesday, the power grids failed again prompting an even worse blackout, which is now affecting more than 700 million people.
“This is going to have a substantial adverse impact on the overall economic activity. Power failure for two consecutive days hits sentiment very badly,” N. Bhanumurthy, a senior economist at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, told the media.
Photo Caption: An Indian passenger sits as others sleep inside the compartment of a stationary train following the power outage that struck on Monday at a train station in New Delhi.
Image Courtesy of Altaf Qadri/AP
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