Mammoth Indian power outage ignites talk of punitive measures
A massive power outage in northern India that hit 300 million persons has sparked outrage among India’s long suffering population.
The six hour outage this Monday is the worst in India in a decade. The cause of the outage has not been determined, but suspicion is falling on states that are consuming more than their allotted quantity of electricity.
The complete shutdown of the northern grid on Monday morning also stopped hundreds of trains and triggered a transport crisis in cities. It hit a region that is home to close to 30% of India's 1.2 billion population.
With India running a peak-hour electricity deficit of 12%, power cuts are a daily occurrence. States frequently seek to mitigate the problem by exceeding what is meant to be a carefully controlled power quota.
India’s many business groups have consistently highlighted the need for urgent steps to improve supplies of coal to thermal power plants and reforming state distribution utilities to solve the endemic power crisis.
The government has appointed a three-man team to investigate the outage. An unidentified member of this team told media that most states kept disregarding official warnings about overdrawing.
"These states have lost all fear. They overdraw from the grid to avoid paying costly power from the market," the team member said.
Vivek Pandit, a director at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said such gross grid indiscipline can only be curbed through drastic penalties.
"Some states are holding the whole grid to ransom and they should be taken off the grid for a day to stop them feeling they can just act with impunity," Pandit said.