- In Featured Stories
- Last Updated on 06 August 2012
- By Sourav Panda
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"Powerless and Clueless," ran the front-page headline in the Times of India, while the Economic Times splashed with "Superpower India, RIP".
Half of India’s 1.2 billion people plunged into darkness as the Grids supplying electricity, collapsed on Monday affecting 14 states. This was followed by another blackout on Tuesday, well, this time affecting 20 states. Believe it or not, this was the largest blackout in history. So there is “progress” for India along with the bronze medal by Gagang Narang on world stage.
Stretching from Assam, near China, to the Himalayas and the north-western deserts of Rajasthan, the outage was the worst to hit India in more than a decade and embarrassed the government, which has failed to build up enough power capacity to meet soaring demand. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has vowed to fast-track stalled power and infrastructure projects as well as introduce free market reforms aimed at reviving India's flagging economy. Monday's failure of the northern network, followed by the expanded collapse of all three grids after midday Tuesday caused chaos across a vast region, paralysing transport networks.
Hundreds of miners were trapped underground for hours in the eastern states of West Bengal and Jharkhand, metro services were stopped temporarily in the capital New Delhi and hundreds of trains were held up nationwide. Railways and some airports were shut down until 08:00. New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport was able to remain open, however, as it switched to back-up power. Passenger trains were shut down and traffic signals were non operational. Several hospitals reported interruptions in health services throughout the country, while others relied on back-up generators. Water treatment plants were shut down for several hours.
This is for the first time that the three inter-state transmission networks - Northern Grid, Eastern Grid and North-Eastern Grid - tripped together. While no official reason was given for the failure, sources said the trouble started in the Eastern Grid.
On the day of the collapse, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde stated that the exact cause of the failure was unknown, but that at the time of the failure, electricity use was "above normal". India’s power network was back at full capacity on Wednesday after two days of the “chaos”. New power minister Veerappa Moily, who was appointed to the post in a Cabinet reshuffle even as Tuesday's unprecedented crisis was still playing out, admitted he faced an enormous task in restoring public confidence. "I'm not going to start with a blame game. The Centre and the states will have to work together on this," Moily said."The fact is that energy demand across India is huge, and we have to try and keep in touch with the pace of development," he added.
The blackout also gave an opportunity to the Opposition to hit out at the government over its failure to prevent the power crisis. The massive power cuts left Indians angry and frustrated in cities across the affected region, as they struggled through gridlocked streets in the humid monsoon heat.