Uttar Pradesh’s power woes spill onto streets

By Sharat Pradhan, IANS

Lucknow : Acute power shortage and long periods of blackouts in Uttar Pradesh have led the harried people to take their protests to the streets. At places, the protestors blocked a national highway and beat drums in front of power officials’ homes.

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Provoked by the absence of power for almost 20 hours a day, residents of Bijnore district’s Dhampur town staged a road-block on a national highway Thursday disrupting movement of traffic. The protest reportedly took a violent turn when the agitating mob refused to allow a military convoy to pass.

“The protestors refused to budge even after intervention by police authorities, following which cops resorted to a mild cane charge to disperse the mob,” Avanish Awasthi, Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation managing director, told IANS.

Said Additional Director General of Police Brij Lal: “Though the road-block was removed in the night, tension continues to prevail in the town.” He, however, described the situation as “under control now”.

Lal did not rule out the possibility of similar protests in other parts of the state where power supply was severely disrupted and consumers had to manage without electricity for most part of the day.

Residents of some localities in Kanpur found a novel way to vent their ire against “indifferent” power officials.

Hundreds of people marched to the residence of Kanpur Electric Supply Corporation’s managing director and at the stroke of midnight, they began beating drums, chanting hyms and singing parodies of Hindi movie songs.

“How can the electricity board officials sleep when the residents are sweating out in the sweltering heat,” remarked Irfan Solanki, a Samajwadi Party legislator who led the mob.

“We have decided that neither will we sleep nor allow power corporation officials to sleep,” he added.

Despite being a major industrial hub as well as the state’s most populated city, Kanpur has been a perennial victim of prolonged power cuts often lasting 15-18 hours.

Small industrial units and shopkeepers are the worst hit by the load shedding, which also affects drinking water supply in many localities.

Awasthi attributes the worsened power situation to the wide gap between the demand and supply.

“As against a daily demand of 8,000 MW, we have not been able to muster more than 6,500 MW,” he said. Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state, home to 170 million people.

He was, however, hopeful of partly tiding over the crisis by the end of this month.

“We are in the process of re-commissioning a 500 MW unit at Anpara that was shut for sometime. We also hope to energise our 60 MW Harduaganj plant later this month – that should bring some respite to the people”, he said.