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Massive power outage in Capital after northern grid collapse hits traffic, Metro services and water supply & doesn't spare PM office

AT 2.33 AM on Monday, Delhiites were shaken out of their dreams to face a nightmare shared by almost the whole of north India.

The northern power grid, bearing load more than its capacity for quite some time, finally gave up on Monday, plunging the national Capital and seven other states into total darkness. Power sector officials in the city, who have repeatedly warned against such a scenario in the recent past, blamed " indisciplined" Uttar Pradesh for heavily overdrawing power from the grid, thereby leading to its collapse in the middle of the night.

The nightmare of Delhiites stretched into the day as they struggled to get ready for different destinations -- offices, schools, colleges, markets -- and even when they managed to step out of their houses, they were gridlocked on the roads.

Of the 780 traffic signals in the national Capital, barely 90 functioned on Monday morning, leaving the commuters stranded in unending traffic snarls. If that was not enough, railways and Delhi Metro added to their woes by suspending operations till power supply was restored.

Delhi Metro shut its gates for public till 8 am and began to function normally only after 11 am, but the frequency and speed of the trains remained slow till late afternoon.

The situation was similar at all the major railway stations of the northern railways. About 300 train services to- and- from New Delhi were severely hit due to the blackout. Even Rajdhanis, Durantos and Shatabdis were running five to six hours late from their scheduled time.

A bright spot in the overall chaos was the Delhi airport which remained largely unaffected.

A Delhi International Airport Ltd ( DIAL) spokesperson said: " DIAL would like to confirm that all flight operations at Indira Gandhi International Airport are normal and there have been no cancellations and delays. Power supply was shifted to DG ( diesel generating) systems instantaneously and has been running smoothly for the last seven hours and will continue so until the normal supply is restored."

Capital chaos

The power failure threw normal life out of gear as residents struggled to reach their destinations on time. Anamica Shrivastav, 20, a Delhi University student, was running 45 minutes late to her college.

" There has been no power since around 3 am. We didn't even have water to take a bath, and now the journey has been tough because of the heavy traffic jam and the Metro delay," she said.

Many others like her rued the fact that they had missed the one slot in the day when they could fill their water tanks and buckets, and would now have to go without water till the next day.

Even lieutenant governor of Delhi, Tejinder Khanna, was not spared. His private residence at D Block in Vasant Vihar saw power supply being restored only in the evening. According to a colony resident: " No special effort was made to restore power supply to his house. In fact, the D Block in Vasant Vihar was one of the last places to get electricity.

This despite the fact that in Paschimi Marg, which is just a few metres away, electricity was restored at 9.30 am. Given the manner in which India normally functions, this is exceptional and praiseworthy." People who had to travel longer distances suffered the most.

Aashrita Jethwani, an MNC employee who lives in Lakshmi Nagar, was unsure if she would be able to reach her Gurgaon office at all. " I generally take the Metro but today the services are so irregular, I am not sure if it I will be able to reach my office. I will take the final call only after the power is restored," she said.

The blackout did not spare the VVIP zone too. It took almost two hours to restore ' normal' power supply to the Prime Minister's Office, airport and AIIMS -- which were on the top of the priority list. Subsequently, power was restored to different parts of Delhi in a phased manner, with parts of south and west Delhi getting power only by late evening.

Blame game

The Delhi government was quick to point fingers at the neighbouring states for this big ' fiasco'. " Even eight months ago, we had written to the Union government, asking it to intervene and punish the states that overdraw power from the grid and make it vulnerable. In the last three- four days, Uttar Pradesh has consistently overdrawn between 1,500 MW to 2,898 MW. Last night it was overdrawing around 1,500 MW when the grid collapsed," Delhi's power minister Haroon Yusuf said. He also accused Punjab and Haryana of overdrawing around 500 MW each at the time of the grid collapse.

Yusuf admitted the fact that India isn't producing enough power to meet its daily demand.

His point was echoed by R. M. Nayak, chairman, Power Grid Corporation of India Limited ( PGCIL). " There is a usual shortfall of around 9 to 10 per cent," he said, adding that the northern grid usually has a load of around 35,000MW to 36,000MW. About Monday's grid collapse, he said it was still too early to specify the real cause. " Immediately after the collapse, we prioritised the process of restoring normalcy. We will analyse the exact reason behind the incident only after a thorough analysis," Nayak said.

Govt sets up threemember panel to probe the grid collapse and submit its report in 15 days. Its members are: A. S. Bakshi, A. M. Nayak and S. K. Soonee

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jul 31, 2012
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