Power shortage sparks protests in Bihar
Patna: Thousands of people took to the streets, shouted slogans, blocked roads and attacked government offices in over half a dozen towns in Bihar Thursday to protest against an acute power shortage, police said.
Protesters in Ara, district headquarters of Bhojpur, some 60 km from here, blockaded roads, burnt tyres and attacked government vehicles and offices, a police officer said.
A district official said that Ara was shutdown by protestors, who threatened to intensify the stir if adequate power was not supplied.
"Situation is tense as professionals like advocates also joined the protests," the official said.
Police had to baton charge the protesters to bring the situation under control.
The situation was similar in district headquarter town of Gopalganj, around 150 km from here.
"We are living without power supply for days, it is too much to tolerate. People have decided to protest and draw the government`s attention," said Mritunjay Singh, a resident of Gopalganj.
Singh said that police baton charged the protestors and also opened fire, in which over half a dozen people were injured.
People in Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur, Patna, Gaya and Jehanabad also took to the streets Thursday.
"Protests against power shortage is spreading across Bihar, but the administration is hardly bothered. It can prove dangerous in the coming days," a ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader said on condition of anonymity.
In the last few days, such protests have been seen in many parts of the state, including districts of Munger, Saharsa, Madhepura, Shekhpura, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur, Gaya and Patna.
A shutdown in Saharsa town earlier this month continued for five days.
With the mercury soaring and scarcity of drinking water reported from across the state, the shortage of electricity has added to the people`s woes.
The internationally renowned Buddhist pilgrimage centre of Gaya gets electricity supply for only four to five hours a day.
"People have been protesting, but no relief has come our way," said M.S. Khan, a retired government official.
While Bihar has a daily requirement of 2,200-2,500 MW, it generates hardly 45-50 MW of power. The central government supplies around 750 to 900 MW. The state is facing a power deficit of about 1,000-1,200 MW a day, officials said.
Millions in Bihar are still living in the age of lantern as electricity has become a luxury for people in most parts. Patna is an exception of sorts, but most small towns and district headquarters are severely hit by the power shortage.
Energy Minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav has said time and again that the power situation cannot improve unless Bihar`s own generation and central allocation is increased substantially.
Last month, the issue rocked the Bihar assembly when many legislators, including ruling coalition partner Bharatiya Janata Party`s (BJP) Amarendra Pratap Singh, cautioned the state government that the law and order situation could deteriorate if power supply was not improved.
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