Blackout in Chhattisgarh

June 14, 2008

June 14th (The Times of India) – Thousands of villages in four districts of Chhattisgarh continue to languish in darkness even as the state government there is making efforts to tap solar energy to thwart the repeated attacks by Maoists on the power distribution network.

Sources told ‘TOI’ that officials have prepared an action plan to light up the interior forest areas of five districts — Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Kanker and Jagdalpur — with solar power. A Dantewada senior police official said it would take another week to restore power in 5,200 villages after the Maoists blew up two 220-kV high tension towers at Barsur in Dantewada district on June 5.

“Nearly 200 Chhattisgarh state electricity board employees with the help of CRPF battalions and special police are struggling hard to re-erect the towers,” Kunta DSP Praful Thakur said. The exercise is proving to be tough in the hilly Bastar terrain where laying power transmission lines and installing towers are time-consuming. Sources said Maoist threat, mining of the area and heavy rains have also hampered the restoration work badly.

The Maoists blasted and uprooted 14 electric poles in Narayanpur district on June 3, snapping power supply to 70 villages. On May 31 last year, Maoists caused a major damage by blowing up three 132 kv HT towers in Narayanpur district and kept the entire Bastar region in darkness for nearly a fortnight.

The latest strike by the Maoists has effectively hit mining operations in Bailadilla, resulting in huge losses to the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC).

The NMDC moves the mined ore on the Kothavalasa-Kirandul railway line to Visakhapatnam. Sources said Vizag Steel Plant (VSP) and steel units in Orissa would be facing severe iron ore crunch if the situation continues for a few more days.

“Some 12 to 14 rakes of iron ore goes to VSP every day from Bailadilla,” a source said.

Not only the mining industry, businesses, railways and farmers have also suffered heavy losses, sources said. “Civic amenities in some towns were impaired and cellular communication was badly hit,” Thakur said.

The Maoists as part of their ‘Jan Pituri Saptah’ stir against the state were hitting soft targets, an analyst said. The stir ended on Friday.

They killed three cops by triggering a landmine at Durg on June 8 and attacked Bishrampur police station a day earlier.

“The rebels are blowing up power lines, disrupting road and rail communication links and snapping phone lines to deal a blow to the morale of police forces,” a senior IPS officer of Dantewada said.

He recalled that the Maoists had targeted telecom towers, power transmission/generation centres, HT towers and railway lines nearly 37 times last year.

“These repeated attacks reveal their intentions clearly. They want to paralyse normal life, sabotage economic activity and dictate terms to the administration,” he said.

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