Lucknow: Angry residents are taking to the streets across Uttar Pradesh in the wake of severe electricity outages which have put the Samajwadi Party government in a spot.
With little to show in the power sector in the last two years of its rule, this is the worst thing that could have happened to the ruling party after the Lok Sabha debacle.
In the past one week alone, small and big power riots have taken place at half-a-dozen places in the state.
On Thursday, furious people held a junior engineer of the UP Power Corp Ltd (UPPCL) hostage at Chandauli and attacked power sub-stations in Aibarnapur and Triveninagar areas here.
With power outages exceeding 16 hours a day in some parts, some people have resorted to vandalism. Their ire is targeted at the government, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and local legislators.
Shakti Bhavan, which houses the headquarters of the power department, was under siege here Thursday.
BJP legislator Shyam Dev Rai Chowdhary launched a fast three days ago in Varanasi against the dismal power situation.
As his health worsened late Thursday, the Prime Minister's Office is learnt to have sought details about the power scenario. Prime Minister Narendra Modi represents Varanasi in the Lok Sabha.
While the power situation improved just after the BJP's electoral victory in the state, it worsened soon after.
BJP state and district units have been leading protests across the state against the poor power supply and unscheduled outages.
State BJP president Laxmikant Bajpayi told IANS: "Ever since (Chief Minister) Akhilesh Yadav took over (in 2012), he has been blaming the Mayawati government for the power scenario. But what has he done to remedy the situation?"
Having won 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party claims that things won't change unless the BJP comes to power in Lucknow too.
Power officials concede the situation is "pretty bad" and that there was a daily shortfall of more than 2,400 MW.
On an average summer day, the state requires 14,185-15,000 MW of power while availability is 11,700 MW. The yawning gap has led to endless power rostering.
A fire-fighting government seems to be waging a lost battle.
Informed sources say that district headquarter towns get only 14 hours of electricity a day and villages just 8-9 hours.
Officials told IANS that state-run thermal powers with a capacity of 2,800 MW power generation were of some support. But in the past one week, their generation has fallen considerably due to technical reasons.
Power supply of 6,000 MW from the central pool has also come down to 4,300 MW, leading to a huge gap between demand and supply.
Officials also blame local power faults, pilferage and other reasons.
The government is purchasing 800-1,000 MW of power under the 'energy exchange' programme but the shortfall remains.
A worried chief minister has told his officials to contact the Power Corp of India. The state's share in hydro electricity is 1,677 MW while it gets only 950 MW.
The nuclear power generation share of Uttar Pradesh is also not being met with, say officials. Uttar Pradesh has a quota of 595 MW in gas turbine power generation while it gets only 98 MW.
Officials say the lack of coal supply from Coal India has hit power generation. "In case coal is supplied, more than 400 MW additional power can be generated from Anpara plant alone," an official told IANS.
Four sub-stations of 400 KV, 21 sub-stations of 220 KV and 63 sub-stations of 132 KV capacity are under construction. In the current fiscal, 10 sub-stations have been built.
In the next three months, 39 primary sub-stations would be energized. By the end of the current fiscal, 40 other sub-stations would come up.
Avadesh Verma, chairman of the UP Power Consumer Forum, blames the Samajwadi Party regime for playing favourites vis-a-vis some areas. In the process, the rest of Uttar Pradesh is suffering.