UP's power crisis spells trouble for SP

Lucknow, May 25 (IANS) With mercury soaring in Uttar Pradesh and the grim power situation disrupting life, protests have become the order of the day, spelling trouble for the Samajwadi Party government.

In the last 10 days alone, people resorted to violence in more than two dozen places across the sprawling state over incessant power cuts and the alleged indifference of officials.

In Lucknow, residents vandalised four power sub-stations and thrashed power officials late Thursday. They went on a rampage after going without power and water supply for more than 12 hours.

"Last year, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav blamed his predecessor Mayawati for the power mess and promised sufficient power this summer. But the situation has worsened," moaned Ratan Sharga, a Lucknow resident.

A group of engineering students clashed with power department employees in the city's Jankipuram area. Police used force to disperse them. But students re-grouped later and thrashed many police officials too.

At Vikasnagar too, a sub-station officer was roughed up.

All major localities in Lucknow including Aliganj, Kaporthala, Daliganj, Ashiana, Gokhaley Marg and Alambagh were hit by power outages.

The dental department of the King George's Medical University (KGMU) and the Queen Mary Hospital, the maternity centre of KGMU, remained in dark for over 18 hours after a cable developed a snag and could not be repaired for hours.

Officials feel there is little they can do to help improve the power situation.

One official pointed out that the state was facing a shortfall of more than 1,500 MW daily. While extra units were purchased from the central pool and other sources, nothing seemed to be enough, the official added.

With the power generation at Harduaganj plant tripping Thursday and a unit at Roza malfunctioning, power officials expect more trouble in the coming days.

"A 210 unit of the Aanpara power plant has already tripped, crippling power supply," an official said.

In all major cities of the state, power cuts vary 7-8 hours. The situation is worse in the countryside with villages getting power just for 5-7 hours a day, officials said.

Uttar Pradesh needs a minimum of 12,500 MW power daily. With the heat wave sweeping the state, the demand for power has peaked but the supply is about 9,000-11,000 MW per day, including 1,000 MW of electricity purchased from the energy exchange, an official told IANS.

More than 100 "sub-standard" transformers have burnt down in the state capital and neighbouring areas in the last one month.

Soon after taking over as chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav promised new transformers. Many suppliers engaged by the erstwhile Mayawati government were blacklisted.

However, the situation remains more or less the same, a senior official of the Uttar Pradesh Power Corp Ltd (UPPCL) told IANS.

While last year the power situation claimed Avanish Awasthi, the then chairman of UPPCL, this year another chairman, Sanjeev Mittal, has been axed.

A power department official said the government was clueless about the magnitude of the problem.

Police, already faced with a spiralling crime graph and breakdown in law and order, are facing mobs angered by long hours of power outages.

"The situation is indeed worrying," a police officer said.

Samajwadi Party legislators too are concerned over how the crisis could affect their prospects in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Ravidas Mehrotra, a legislator from Lucknow (Central), has urged the chief minister to immediately end the power crisis.

"How are we expected to face the people?" Mehrotra asked, adding the entire system needed "a complete overhaul".

People are angry that while 90 percent of the state is reeling under a power crisis, constituencies like Mainpuri, Etawah, Rae Bareili, Amethi, Rampur and Kannauj -- which have elected VVIPs -- get 24x7 power.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

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