Power cuts haunt UP as talks fail
Lucknow, March 19 (IANS) Talks between Uttar Pradesh Power Minister A.K. Sharma and Vidyut Karmachari Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti (VKSSS) remained inconclusive, late on Saturday, even as the 72-hour strike by power employees led to power disruptions in several parts of the state.
The state government lodged FIR against 22 striking engineers, including VKSSS convenor Shailendra Dubey, under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA).
Later, a defiant Dubey said that the strike would continue even if he was arrested.
Protests over power cuts began in many parts of Prayagraj and Lucknow.
In Lucknow, residents of Singarnagar blocked the Lucknow Kanpur Road while roads were blocked in Kotha Parcha area of Prayagraj.
The minister warned striking electricity department employees to resume work or lose jobs. He said 1,332 contractual workers had been sacked and warned of action against 1,000 more if they failed to resume duty.
Sharma met Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and briefed him about the prevailing power situation in the wake of the strike.
By Saturday evening, 2,392 megawatt (MW) power generation, which is 17 per cent of the total 13,856 MW demand, was not available due to the shutdown of 1,000 MW of Obra plant, 1,130 MW of Anpara plant and 210 MW of Parichha plant following the strike.
The Harduaganj power generation station was also heading to shut down in support of the strike.
Till Saturday evening, 506 feeders had reportedly shut down in urban or semi-urban areas, affecting nearly 13 lakh households in the state. The exact figures for rural areas were not available, but official sources claimed that it was double that of urban areas.
The minister claimed that alternative measures were being taken to make arrangements to normalize power supply in the state.
"A few power generation units have been shut down due to strike, but there is no power shortage in the state. The strike called by power union VKSSS has failed," Sharma said.
The minister has appealed to contractual employees to think about their families and return to work instead of participating in the strike.
"There are not many jobs. We will not hesitate to sack contractual staff. The government has asked outsourcing firms to prepare a list of new eligible candidates from ITIs across the state - we will hire them in case engineers do not resume work at power stations," said Sharma.
VKSSS convenor Shailendra Dubey said, "We will extend our 72-hour for an indefinite period if sacked workers are not reinstated. We apologise for the inconvenience caused to power consumers, but it is the government's fault as we had informed them about the strike a month ago and yet it failed to make alternative arrangements."