The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Scare of power cuts during puja

Oct. 17: The spectre of a dark Durga puja appeared today with a central power generator saying that supply could be hit during the four days Bengal is at its glittering best.

Disruption in movement of coal from mines in Jharkhand by villagers demanding relief has led to a scarcity in the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) plant in Farakka, 300 km from Calcutta. Supply to the state electricity board grid has dropped already.

NTPC spokesman Sukanta Chowdhury said angry villagers have been blocking tracks in Sahebgunj district of Jharkhand since October 9 in protest against inadequate relief. 'They are not allowing our coal wagons to move, leading to depleting stocks at the Farakka plant,' Chowdhury said.

Large parts of Farakka in Murshidabad and adjacent Sahebgunj were flooded after heavy rain early this month. The villagers started protesting against the alleged apathy of the Jharkhand government and the NTPC from Angloi-Gomani railway station in the neighbouring state.

On October 12, Central Industrial Security Force jawans from Bengal who went to Angloi-Gomani to disperse agitating villagers had to lathi-charge a mob and open fire. One villager was killed.

However, railway officials denied that tracks were being blocked and said there was no disruption of movement of goods trains.

The authorities at Farakka were last night forced to shut down two 200-mw units. That led to a sharp drop in supply to the state electricity board.

M.K. Roy, a member (commercial) of the power board, said: 'We are now receiving about 130 mw less than usual from the NTPC.' The board draws about 600 mw from the Farakka plant everyday during the evening peak hour.

State power secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy spoke to his counterpart in Delhi last night and, officials said, all efforts are being made to persuade the villagers ' reportedly backed by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the Congress ' to withdraw their agitation.

'Our stocks are depleting fast and if the obstruction continues, we may have to shut down our two 500-mw units at Farakka in the next few days,' an NTPC official said.

If the NTPC authorities are forced to shut down the two larger units, it will be difficult to avoid power cuts during the pujas, said a state board official.

However, he also added that the state-run power plants at Bakreswar, Kolaghat, Bandel and Santaldih are generating well and if the Farakka units are not shut down, supply will not be affected.

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