The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Twin bandhs in Assam tomorrow over power crisis

Silchar, May 6: Simultaneous 12-hour bandhs have been called in Assam’s Cachar and Barak valley districts on Monday over the escalating power crisis in the state.

With the mercury soaring, frequent and prolonged powercuts have left tempers frayed. Over the past few days, Assam has witnessed demonstrations across the state, capped by the first-of-its kind bandh called in protest against the power shortfall.

The Cachar district bandh has been called by the All Cachar Students’ Association, while the Barak Valley bandh, covering Karimganj, Cachar and Hailakandi, has been declared by the Cachar unit of the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI).

The bandh will be in force from 5 am to 5 pm on Monday.

SUCI leader Ajoy Roy said in Silchar today that the “unbearable situation” prevailing in the state for the last three weeks had prompted the bandh call.

Rupam Nandi Purakayastha, president of the central committee of the Cachar students’ organisation, said the crisis had hit students in the midst of the “examination season”.

The Cachar district committees of the BJP and the CPM have also threatened a series of strikes if the power crisis is not sorted out soon.

A hassled ASEB, whose Tezpur and Guwahati offices were ransacked by protesters on Thursday, virtually threw up its hands. Against a peak hour demand of 710 MW, the service providers can only manage to supply 500 MW. Sources in the board said Cachar received only 28 MW of power from the regional grid as against its peak hour demand of 70 MW.

Umakanta Goswami, MD, Central Assam Electricity Distribution Company Limited, said the power situation in the state would improve after the three hydel units of the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (Neepco) resumed operations from May 15. The units produce a total of 605 MW of power. “People should appreciate our difficulties and bear with us,” was his response to the bandh call.

In Guwahati, P.K. Borthakur, MD, Upper and Lower Assam distribution companies, said the state was facing a shortfall of 200 MW. “This would have been taken care of, had we received the allotted 610 MW from Neepco and NHPC, 14 MW from DLF and 100 MW from the Eastern Grid,” he said.

ASEB generates 120 MW of its own. Borthakur said much would depend on the amount of rain received by the state in the next few days. He also ruled out the possibility of receiving surplus power from other states.

ASEB employees, however, blame Dispur’s reforms policy, saying commercial considerations had influenced decisions ever since the Assam Electricity Act, 2003 came into force.

Power woes in the Barak areas spiralled when a main transformer in the Panchgram substation developed a snag after a storm in early April. The substation is the lone receiving centre for power transfer to the valley.

R.P. Sinha, chairman and managing director of Power Grid Corporation Limited, said the ASEB did not have funds to replace the transformer.

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