Blockade of township in Bihar’s Aurangabad ends after NTPC agrees to repair power cable
Tension had gripped the BRBCL township area on Sunday as around 700 people, mostly employees of the NTPC, a Central public sector undertaking, and their family members were “held hostage” by villagers who were protesting discontinuation of power supply by the NTPC after its power cables developed snag late on Friday.
The three-day old blockade of the Bharatiya Rail Bijlee Corporation Limited (BRBCL) township in Bihar’s Aurangabad district ended on Tuesday after officials agreed to undertake repairs on a power cable that would restore electricity to nearby villages. The BRBCL is a joint-venture of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and the railways.
Tension had gripped the BRBCL township area on Sunday as around 700 people, mostly employees of the NTPC, a Central public sector undertaking, and their family members were “held hostage” by villagers who were protesting discontinuation of power supply by the NTPC after its power cables developed snag late on Friday. Around 200 people from Surar, Salya, Khaira and Gogara Bandh blocked the township entrance, cutting civil and medical supplies to NTPC staff and their family members frpm Sunday.
The villagers claimed that the BRBCL had disconnected power supply to villages, plunging them into darkness for the last few days. However, NTPC said eight-nine villages, adjoining the plant, were pilfering power from its township for the last seven years that it had now decided to put an end to.The 1000 MW NTPC plant is a joint venture with the Railways.
The local constituent body of the NTPC executive federation of India (NEFI) had sought to evacuate its members and their families if the deadlock persisted beyond 2pm on Tuesday.
Faced with tepid support from the state and district authorities to take on the villagers and curb illegal tapping, besides addressing safety concerns of its employees, the NTPC management agreed to undertake repairs at its plant, thus, defusing the crisis.
Nearly 500-metre power cable, electrical panel and multiple-circuit breaker (MCB) of the BRBCL had got burnt last Friday due to heavy illegal tapping by villagers. The damage was estimated to be in several lakhs of rupees, the NTPC claimed.
The BRBCL had held back repairs, to put an end to illegal tapping of power from its township, after its repeated requests to the district and state administration to curb power pilferage in the area had fallen on deaf ears.
The BRBCL plant is surrounded by at least eight villages — Surar, Narayanpur, Eghra, Salya, Kerka, Khadha, Pirota and Gogra Bandh, to name a few.
The state energy department’s claim that it had electrified all 39,200-odd revenue villages of Bihar last December sounded hollow as compared to NTPC data. Till August 30, this year, 11 kV transmission lines had not reached Narayanpur, Salya and Gogra Bandh villages, adjoining the BRBCL plant in Aurangabad.
Similarly, Narayanpur, Eghra, Salya, Pirota and Gogra Bandh villages did not have any distribution transformer. There was only transformer each in Khadha and Kerka villages to cater to a population of 1600 and 700 (approx.), respectively.
Of the two transformers in Surar, only one was charged, while the other was not.
Principal secretary, energy, Pratyaya Amrit, who is also chairman-cum-managing director, Bihar State Power Holding Company, could not be contacted.
Managing director, South Bihar Power Distribution Company Limited (SBPDCL), R Lakshmanan, said: “We have our distribution network in villages adjoining the BRBCL plant, but the villagers are not allowing us to strengthen our network and join them to our feeder. They want that they be allowed to continue to draw power from the NTPC plant. We have to see if there is any agreement where the NTPC has to provide power to the villages.”
The NTPC was firm it would escalate the issue if the state did not act.
“I have asked my engineers to undertake repairs of the fault at our end of the plant on the verbal assurance of the SBPDCL top management that it would gradually phase out illegal tapping in villages once its grid supply is complete. It is for the district and state authorities to check illegal tapping of power, which has been rampant in the area,” said NTPC regional executive director (eastern region-I) S Narendra.
Asked if the SBPDCL or the state government had given any written assurance to this effect, he said, “None as of now. We have written a number of letters to the Aurangabad district administration and the Bihar State Power Holding Company, but things have not happened the way we wanted in this case. We will document their (state power firm’s request) and follow it up with them, keeping our headquarters in the loop.”
“We are more worried over fatal accidents arising out of flash-over,” he said.
First Published: Sep 12, 2018 12:15:02