Maharashtra govt to make probe report on Mumbai power outage public
Post the massive power outage that brought Mumbai to a complete halt on October 12, 2020, the state and Centre constituted committees to investigate the reasons behind the incident. While none of the reports have been made public as yet, state energy minister Nitin Raut on Monday said that all the reports will be tabled in the ongoing budget session of the Maharashtra legislature, where he will discuss them.
Reports of a Chinese cyber attack being the reason behind the power outage came to the fore on Monday. State home minister Anil Deshmukh also said that the state’s cyber police investigations indicated cyber sabotage by some foreign countries. However, the Central government refuted these reports on Tuesday, stating that the incident was the result of a human error.
Union Power minister RK Singh said on Tuesday that the government not in possession of any evidence which could prove that the power outage was caused by a cyber attack by either China or Pakistan. “We don’t have evidence to say that the cyber attacks were carried out by China or Pakistan. Some people say that the group behind the attacks is Chinese but we don’t have evidence. China will definitely deny it,” Singh told ANI.
Taking suo motu cognisance of the Mumbai power outage, the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) has ordered an enquiry by an independent committee. MERC stated that the committee needs to “verify and analyse the submissions of all parties, to find out the root cause of the incident, to examine the adequacy of protection systems/islanding system etc. and to verify the adequacy of responses of all concerned.” The committee also has to probe if the generation and distribution companies followed the protocol for restoration of power supply to the city.
In a separate notification, MERC stated that the committee includes retired IAS officer Dr Sudhir Kumar Goel, the chairman, V Ramakrishnan, an ex member of the Central Electricity Authority, and Dr Faruk Kazi, the head of the electrical engineering department at the Veermara Jijabai Technical Institute.
Goel said, “While we have submitted the report, we are not permitted to reveal any details.”
The Union power ministry had also constituted a committee under the Central Electricity Authority to check whether the grid failure was because of technical flaws or a manual error. The committee, chaired by the CEA chief engineer, also has to probe as to why Mumbai’s islanding system did not work.
Apart from this, the state government also constituted a committee with members from the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd to probe the incident. The Maharashtra cyber police were also asked to look into the incident after Raut hinted at possible sabotage on October 13, 2020.
Maharashtra inspector general of police (Cyber) Yashasvi Yadav, under whose supervision the investigation was conducted and the report prepared, said, “We have submitted the investigation report to the home minister and he has already outlined the four major findings, including introducing Trojan Horses into the server, unaccounted transferring of around 8GB of data from unidentified foreign servers, hacking attempts by blacklisted Internet protocol (IP) addresses, etc. We have explained the entire attack with proofs. Revealing more about the contents of the report would not be appropriate at this time.”
Ashok Pendse, a power expert from Mumbai, said, “We will have to really see what the expert committees have to say the major reason behind the outage was. Until then, it does not seem right to say that the incident was due to a cyber attack.”
(With inputs from Vijay Kumar Yadav)