India restores power, minister promises actionAgence France-Presse . New Delhi
India restored its power supplies on Wednesday after two days of massive outages that blacked out half the country, but fears remained that the grid could collapse again under the strain of over-demand.
India’s electricity network was back at full capacity after three regional grids failed on Tuesday in the country’s worst power crisis that left more than 600 million people without supplies.
‘The most important task on hand for me is to take essential steps required to sustain the electricity grid that suffered unprecedented failure over the past two days,’ said new power minister Veerappa Moily.
Despite his promises that the outage would ‘not be repeated,’ wary consumers who are used to regular load-shedding braced for the possibility of more serious disruption.
Hundreds of miners were trapped underground for hours in the eastern states of West Bengal and Jharkhand on Tuesday, metro services were stopped temporarily in the capital New Delhi and hundreds of trains were held up nationwide.
Traffic snarled in cities as traffic lights failed and hospitals and airports had to switch to back-up power.
‘On Monday the government said that this will never happen again but on Tuesday they proved themselves wrong. How can you trust them anymore?’ said Revathi Nair, a 32-year-old manager with a five-star hotel in central Delhi.
Former power minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who was promoted to home minister on Tuesday in a reshuffle announced in the midst of the crisis, said India should be more grateful for the efforts of its engineers and bureaucrats.
‘Where in America the grid doesn’t get repaired for four days, here we repair the grid in several hours,’ the minister told reporters, repeating a boast that India had been more reactive than the US, which suffered a huge power failure in 2003.
‘You should appreciate us, the way work is done in the power ministry,’ he added.
Wednesday’s newspapers were predictably critical of the government, saying it lacked the political will to implement long called-for reforms in the power sector to boost production and sort out near-bankrupt state distributors.
‘Powerless and Clueless’, ran the front-page headline in the Times of India, while the Economic Times splashed with ‘Superpower India, RIP’ in a reference to New Delhi’s bid to be recognised as a global economic and diplomatic force.
On the streets of Delhi, small business owners seethed over the failures which caused computers to crash and expensive diesel generators to be called into action.
‘I spent over 2,000 rupees (about $40) yesterday just to buy diesel for my generator,’ said Ram Prasad Kejriwal who runs a shop selling shawls on a commercial street in the capital. ‘The entire day’s sale was only 5,000 rupees.’
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