Bihar town erupts into protests over power shortage


Patna: Hundreds of people took to the streets, blockaded roads and attacked government offices in Bihar’s Saharsa town Saturday, the fifth day of a shutdown to protest an acute power shortage, police said.

Support TwoCircles

The protesters in Saharsa town, district headquarters of flood-prone Saharsa, about 200 km from here, blockaded roads, burnt tyres and even attacked government vehicles and offices, a police officer said.

Former legislator Sanjeev Jha too joined the protest by staging a sit-in, but fainted due to the scorching heat.

“Entire Saharsa remains shut down since Tuesday to protest against the power shortage, but the local and state administration are hardly bothered,” Harideo Prasad Singh, a school teacher, told IANS.

Mohsin Alam, a businessman, said: “A town like Saharsa is shut down for five days, but the government fails to take any steps.”

In the last few days, such protests have been seen in many parts of the state, including districts of Munger, Patna, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and Gaya.

With the mercury soaring and scarcity of drinking water reported from across the state, the shortage of electricity has added to the people’s woes.

On Thursday, people in Munger, Saharsa, Bhagalpur and Patna took to the streets, blocking traffic with burning tyres, and vandalised offices of the Bihar State Electricity Board.

The internationally renowned Buddhist pilgrimage centre of Gaya gets electricity supply for only four to five hours a day.

“People have been protesting, but no relief has come our way,” said Roomi, a Gaya resident.

While Bihar has a daily requirement of 2,200-2,500 MW, it generates hardly 45-50 MW of power. The central government supplies around 750 to 900 MW. The state is facing a power deficit of about 1,000-1,200 MW a day, officials said.

Millions in Bihar are still living in the age of lantern as electricity has become a luxury for people in most parts. Patna is an exception of sorts, but most small towns and district headquarters are severely hit by the power shortage.

Energy Minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav has said time and again the power situation cannot improve unless Bihar’s own generation and central allocation is increased substantially.

Last month, the issue rocked the Bihar assembly when many legislators, including ruling coalition partner Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Amerendra Pratap Singh, cautioned the state government that the law and order situation could deteriorate if power supply was not improved.