Recriminations begin following world’s biggest power cut

Power has been restored in full to the three electricity grids that failed in India on consecutive days, creating the biggest blackout in human history. However the blame game has now begun between state and federal ministers.

Hundreds of millions of people across the country were plunged into darkness when the grids collapsed on both Monday and Tuesday.

Tuesday’s blackout was caused by the collapse of three interconnected northern power grids, and extended close to 2000 miles (3219 km), from India’s eastern border with Myanmar to its western border with Pakistan.

It is believed to have affected more than 600m people, half of India’s 1.2bn population and double the number caught-up in Monday’s outage.

Officials described a “cascade”, as first the overloaded northern grid sucked energy from the eastern grid, which eventually began drawing on the north-eastern network, bringing all three down, reports the Daily Telegraph.

India power cut chaos

“Every state draws far more than their specified quotas from the power grid. We will penalise those provinces that transgress these limits and if they persist their power supplies would be cut,” Sushil Kumar Shinde, the Indian power minister, told reporters at a hastily summoned news conference in Delhi.

That the deficit has worsened in recent weeks because of poor monsoon rains, which have both disrupted output from hydropower schemes and nudged temperatures higher, increasing demand for air conditioners.

The new power minister, Veerappa Moily, who the government insist was to begin office as part of a previously scheduled reshuffle, tried to ease the row, saying “I don’t think one can have a blame game between the state and the center.”

Mr. Moily promised that he would ensure that the nation’s power grid had round-the-clock monitoring.

In the aftermath, Ajit Sharan, the power secretary for the state of Haryana, said that the central government is supposed to warn states if they are drawing excessive power from the system, and that did not happen on Tuesday or Monday, when another blackout affected a quarter of the nation’s population.

Experts believe inattention by those manning crucial circuit breakers on India’s electrical grid may have led to the blackout.

The New York Times reports that India’s basic power problem is that the country’s rapid development has led demand to far outstrip supply, meaning power officials must manage the grid by shutting down power to small sections of the country on a rotating basis. But doing so requires quick action from government officials who are often loathe to shut off power to important constituencies.

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