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Maoists leave Bastar powerless

Four districts of Bastar range in Chhattisgarh plunged into darkness after Maoists blasted two 220 kv power supply towers, reports Ejaz Kaiser.
Hindustan Times | By Ejaz Kaiser, Raipur
UPDATED ON JUN 07, 2008 02:29 AM IST

The four districts of Bastar range in Chhattisgarh that plunged into darkness on Thursday, after Maoists blasted two 220 kv power supply towers, will have to live without power for at least another week. As many as 2,500 villages face blackouts.

“It will take at least a week to restore power,” said Rajib Ranjan, chairman of the Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board (CSEB), in Bastar on Friday. After 32 hours, power board staff are yet to reach the spot to assess damage. The affected districts are Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur and Jagdalpur. The previous year too on May 31, ultras had damaged towers, leaving the entire Bastar region without power for 11 days.

R.K. Tiwari, general manager of the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), told the Hindustan Times the NMDC was facing losses of more than Rs 2 crore per day as production and dispatch of ores has been brought to a grinding halt. Similarly, the Railways is losing around Rs 1.5 crore daily.

Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh held an emergency meeting with senior officials and directed the CSEB to restore power supply on priority basis.

If the blast wasn’t bad enough, it has now emerged that the purchase of the Emergency Restoration System (ERS) by the power board in 2007 at an exorbitant price may well be money down the drain. Interestingly, there had been reports of a suspected scam in the deal.

After rebels damaged towers the previous year, the CSEB had purchased the ERS, saying it was the solution to such a crisis. But now senior officials of the CSEB are doubtful about the equpiment’s effectiveness, saying the ERS is meant for plains and not the hilly terrain and remote and dense forests of Bastar. The Naxals have damaged towers in areas that entail a 10-15 km journey on foot by power board employees, officials said.

The CSEB staff are likely to begin restoration work on Saturday. CSEB member (T&D) V.K. Jain said security personnel are sanitising the route to the damaged towers. “Our men will be escorted to the work area after safe passage is ensured,” said Jain adding that two ERS had already reached Bastar on Friday.

The ERS will have to be purchased and each set costs over Rs 10 crore, said a senior official. It comprises aluminium tubular pipes, which can be erected within eight hours as towers to facilitate power supply arrangements temporarily.

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