Puducherry plunged into darkness for hours in a major power blackout on Saturday evening even as the indefinite strike by electricity workers against privatisation entered the fourth day and the situation threatened to snowball into a crisis for the NDA government in the Union Territory.
Public ire against frequent and extended power outages spilled on to the streets after 6 p.m. resulting in road blockades in different parts of the city, including the Raja Theatre, Mudaliarpet and the ECR, and in several suburban areas. A group, led by G. Nehru and Prakash Kumar, MLAs, staged a dharna in front of the Chief Secretariat raising slogans against the Centre and lambasting the failure of the leadership to find a solution to the crisis.
Meanwhile, Electricity Minister A. Namassivayam convened an emergency meeting with the Chief Secretary and other top officials of the electricity and police departments to undertake measures on a war-footing to restore supply.
The administration was able to restore power to most parts by 9 p.m.
Officials sources said that as part of a contingency plan drawn up by the administration since the strike began, a 25-member team from the Power Grid Corporation of India has been helping with calibrating the power supply across the Union Territory. The administration has also hired a few retired hands and private contractors to tide over the situation.
Police security is being stepped up across critical sub stations and to provide security to the contingency staff should they be confronted by striking workers, sources in government said.
Meanwhile, DMK convenor and Leader of Opposition R. Siva, urged Chief Minister N. Rangasamy to convene a special session of the Assembly to discuss the extraordinary situation prevailing in the Union Territory due to the strike by the electricity employees and the continuous power cuts.
As the indefinite strike by electricity employees entered the fourth day, several places across the Union Territory have been hit by power outages and have triggered protests by the public. Already, the loss to industry and trader is estimated to be in excess of ₹100 crore, Mr. Siva said.
He appealed to the Chief Minister to not support the “anti-people, anti-worker” measures of the BJP Government at the Centre and wanted the AINRC to declare its stand on the privatisation. The Chief Minister should also convene an all party meeting to discuss the crisis, he added.
In Mahe, the Priyadarshini Social Action Forum, urged the authorities to find an immediate solution to the suffering of the people due to the strike as there was an extended power outage in areas such as Mahe Town, Palloor, Pandakkal and Chalakkara.
While electricity workers had been on the war path since the privatisation plan was first mooted during the tenure of the previous Congress government, the latest indefinite strike was launched after the government issued a tender on September 27 seeking bids to sell 100% of its stake to a private entity to take over distribution and retail supply of electricity in Puducherry.
With the festive season approaching, the government has appealed to the workers to call of the strike to avoid hardship to the public. There have also been sufficient indications from the government that a walk back on the privatisation plan is beyond its scope and could be done, if at all, only by the Centre.
In fact, Lt. Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan had stated, after a meeting with the Chief Minister the other day, that it would be ensured that privatisation would in no way affect the interests of the employees, or the public.