Protesters in northern India
clash with police over power cuts
May 2, 2008 - Biswajeet Banerjee - The Associated
Rioters, some wearing just underwear, clashed
with police in northern India early Friday in
anger over massive power cuts that left wide
swaths of the region without electricity as
summer temperatures soared, police said.
Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds
who attacked police vehicles, blocked roads
and rail lines, set an electricity transformer
on fire and attacked electricity workers in
Uttar Pradesh state, police spokesman Surendra
Riots were reported in several cities across
the state, he said.
Uttar Pradesh, home to some 180 million people,
is one of India's poorest states. Its inadequate
energy infrastructure has been unable to cope
with the high demand for electricity as temperatures
peaked above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees
Fahrenheit) in recent days.
Most cities have been getting just 12 hours
of electricity a day. Many people were left
without air conditioning or fans - and, in some
cases, without water, as electric pumps failed.
More than 250 people had been detained and
charged with rioting, Srivastava said.
In Gorakhpur, which had been without electricity
for more than 24 hours, protesters stormed an
office of the electricity board, taking several
workers hostage and beating a few. They also
set a nearby electricity transformer ablaze
in the town, 300 kilometers (190 miles) southeast
of the state capital, Lucknow.
As police tried to disperse the crowd, many
of the men - clad just in their underwear to
beat the heat - taunted police, challenging
them to open fire, Srivastava said.
State Power Minister Ram Veer Upadhaya said
he expected the power crisis to continue for
at least the next two years.
"There is a big gap between the demand and
supply. Our power stations do not generate required
electricity," he said.
India faces chronic power shortages amid growing
demand, spurred by its rapid economic growth,
and a lag in building enough new power stations.