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Power cut in factories as thieves snap DPL cable

Durgapur, Jan. 20: Production at several factories in Durgapur has been affected by frequent power cuts since yesterday after suspected thieves snapped a high-tension cable at Durgapur Projects Limited (DPL), grappling with glitches and security personnel shortage.

Since the early morning theft attempt yesterday, DPL, which has been buying power from the West Bengal State Electricity Transmission Company Limited (WBSETCL) since production stopped on December 31, has “rationalised” supply to bulk consumers such as factories.

Several factories in Durgapur, most of whom manufacture iron, steel and alloys, have either stopped or reduced production.

The 132KV cable that was cut by the thieves used to carry power through one of the two DPL transformers, which bring down the voltage of electricity that is supplied to and from the plant.

The snapped cable used to cater to the 160MVA transformer, through which power bought from WBSETCL reaches the DPL plant and is supplied to bulk consumers like industrial units.

The thieves, who steal copper cables for the metal, left the booty and fled apparently because they suffered a shock after coming in contact with the live wire.

A DPL official said power supply to domestic consumers was not affected because the cable running through the other transformer had not been touched.

DPL has lodged a police complaint and has started work to replace the cable as soon as possible.

“It will take three-four days to replace the cable. Meanwhile, we have started producing electricity in an old unit that had been lying idle for the past few years because of cost overrun. Unit 3 is producing 47MW, which is being supplied to industrial units to meet a portion of the requirement,” a DPL official said.

“Power produced by unit 3 is being supplied through other transmission lines,” the official said, adding that DPL had cut down by half the power it was buying from WBSETCL as the 160MVA transformer could not be used. “We are purchasing 100MW and bringing it through the transformer that is operational.”

DPL had not generated electricity in the past 20 days because of a snag in two modern units and cost overrun-related production freeze in three old ones. Engineers of private companies are repairing the two new units.

The DPL official said power supply to households, schools, colleges, banks and government offices had not been affected.

Satpal Bansal, the director of Haldia Steels Ltd that produces ferro alloys, said the Durgapur plant had to stop production in phases for 23 hours since 2am on Sunday because of the power cuts.

“We need 13MW a day to run the plant in full swing. We have been getting much less since early yesterday. We have told DPL that it will be tough for us to continue production like this,” he said.

V.V. Rao, the deputy general manager of Shyam Ferro Alloys Ltd, said production suffered today because of a four-hour power cut.

DPL supplies 220MW a day to Durgapur in winter. Of this, 150MW is consumed by industrial units.

A security official at DPL said: “The power suddenly went off around 1.30am on Sunday. As soon as we came to know about the theft attempt, we rushed to the spot and found the cable had been snapped. The thieves could not take away the cable as they probably suffered injuries after coming in contact with the live cable.”

The Intuc and Citu unions at DPL alleged that several posts of security guards had been lying vacant for long.

“Frequent thefts of cables are taking place because of shortage of guards. There have been four thefts of cables in the past one month. The plant is supposed to be a high-security zone. DPL has 275 guards, against the sanctioned strength of 450. Of the 275, 188 have been hired from private agencies,” said Dibyendu Banerjee, the general secretary of the Intuc-affiliated trade union at DPL.

Citu’s Naren Sikdar echoed him.

DPL sources said the company could not recruit guards because of a cash crunch.