The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bhopal safer after power cuts: Police

Bhopal, May 24: The power crisis in Madhya Pradesh has made the state much safer, the Digvijay Singh government would have everyone believe.

There has been a sharp fall in crime since May when the government began to enforce mandatory two-hour power cuts between 11 pm and 6 am. There were 97 burglaries in Bhopal in January, but just 69 this month according to the state crime digest. Thefts have also dropped, from 67 to 39.

The Digvijay regime has been under attack from all quarters for the midnight and pre-dawn power cuts. But Bhopal superintendent of police, Arun Pratap Singh, has managed to put a happy spin on the crisis. The outages, he says, have led to a fall in crime as residents keep awake, battling the heat and mosquitoes all night long.

“Thieves do not want to take a chance as they know that a large number of people are awake,” Singh says. With “people keeping a vigil, policing their premises”, there is “good news” all round, he adds.

But not everyone in the police department is convinced. Senior officials who do not wish to be identified said a fall in crime did not reflect reality. They said police were being deployed at night to protect state electricity board offices as well as officials who have become the target of public fury.

In the past week, almost all districts have witnessed arson and violence, with government vehicles and property being damaged. Police last night had to lathicharge and teargas an angry mob in Datia district which was protesting the power cuts.

Digvijay has found the going tough on the political front as well. For the first time in a long while, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has criticised the regime she used to showcase as a “model state”. During her recent two-day visit to Madhya Pradesh, Sonia said Digvijay would have to “tackle” the power crisis. She made the remarks after party workers complained that the Congress may lose the November Assembly election if the crisis continues.

The chief minister has said the power cuts will be stopped in a fortnight.

Chief secretary A.V. Singh has taken additional charge of the state electricity board after board chief Subir Dasgupta quit his post.

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