An overstrained power generation and transmission structure spreading across 21 States of the North, East and North-East regions collapsed on Tuesday, plunging half of the country into darkness, trapping hundreds of miners in Jharkhand and West Bengal and paralysing the movement of inter-State trains. (The miners were later rescued.)

The second massive breakdown in as many days was caused by the continuing grid indiscipline on the part of the State Electricity Boards (SEBs) and power utilities that overdrew power from an already overstretched generation system. On Monday, the northern grid collapsed and it was restored after 15 hours. The Eastern and North-Eastern transmission lines too failed on Tuesday afternoon.

Although the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) maintained that most areas would see power restored by 7.30 p.m., the situation is expected to become normal only after midnight. The Power Ministry and the PGCIL were unable to pinpoint the cause of the outage. States were overdrawing power was all that they had to say.

Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan refused to adhere to grid discipline and continued to overdraw power despite repeated warnings by the Northern Regional Load Despatch Centre (NRLDC) and other State centres, posing a serious danger to the safety of the grid. Even more shocking is the fact that most of these States have refused to install under frequency relays (UFRs) for automatic demand management schemes, which could have prevented such a massive failure. Similarly, the States were found to have overdrawn power when the grid frequency was below 49.5 Hz and even 48.8 Hz, in contravention of the orders of the regulatory authority and load despatch centres.

However, the Punjab government described the charge of overdrawing as absurd, factually baseless and grossly misleading.

Such was the scale of power failure that mining operations in Eastern India came to a grinding halt. Nearly 200 miners were trapped in the Eastern Coalfield at Burdwan in West Bengal and another 65 were trapped in the Bharat Coking Coal facility in Jharkhand.

The grid collapse took place around 1 p.m. affecting Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, West Bengal, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Orissa, Bihar, Rajasthan and Assam and the Union Territory of Chandigarh.

The railway network was the worst hit with trains across major parts of the country stopping midway.

This is possibly the first time that all three grids have collapsed simultaneously. Till late in the evening, around 25000 MW of the total 50,000 MW had been restored. About 13,000 MW has been restored in the Northern region and about 4,000 MW in the Eastern region. Supply to the affected regions is being extended from western and southern Grids.

By evening, the hydro stations in the northern region started working and supply has been restored up to Punjab and Haryana.

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