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Covid-19: Modi’s call to turn off lights on April 5 may lead to blackout, warns Maharashtra minister

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Maharashtra Energy Minister Nitin Raut on Friday urged citizens to reconsider Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to switch off all lights for nine minutes on April 5, saying this could lead to a power grid failure in the country, NDTV reported. In a video message, Modi on Friday asked citizens to illuminate their houses with lamps and candles to mark their fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“If all lights are put off at the same time, it can lead to a potential blackout, which will also affect the emergency services,” Raut said.The minister explained that if all the lights are switched off at the same time, it would create a huge difference in the demand and supply of electricity. The demand for power has already decreased from 23,000 megawatt to 13,000 megawatt amid the countrywide lockdown as all factory units stopped operations, he added.

“It may take up to 12 to 16 hours to restore services. In fight against coronavirus pandemic, electricity is an important tool,” Raut added.

Electricity department officials of Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have also issued circulars instructing their field officers to keep all reactors of the states’ power grids in service to protect it from a high voltage power surge.

“In order to operate [the] power grid in [a] safe, secured and smooth manner, sharp crashing of load must be avoided. To achieve [this], load shedding in staggered manner may be done starting from approximately 8 pm to 9pm in Uttar Pradesh Power Control Area,” the circular issued by the Uttar Pradesh administration stated.

Tamil Nadu Transmission Corporation, meanwhile, asked all power grid centres to ensure sufficient staff is present at the headquarters on April 5 between 8 pm to 10:30 pm, when the fluctuation in energy requirements is expected to occur.

Several Opposition leaders on Friday criticised the prime minister’s call for switching off all lights to demonstrate their collective will to fight the coronavirus, saying it is empty “symbolism” and a move to curate “a feel-good moment” in the absence of concrete economic measures.

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra asked Modi to “get real” and to provide a fiscal package to protect poor workers. “Turn out lights and come on balconies,” she asked in a tweet. “Get real Mr Modi. Give India fiscal package worth 8-10% of GDP. Ensure immediate wages to construction & other labour during lockdown-laws exist permitting this. Stop gagging real press in name of curbing fake news.”

Meanwhile, Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram questioned why the government had not announced a second Financial Action Plan for the poor amid the three-week nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor also took a dig at the prime minister, saying his video message has done nothing to ease the financial burden for the poorest and most vulnerable sections. “Listened to the Pradhan Showman,” he said in a tweet. “Nothing about how to ease people’s pain, their burdens, their financial anxieties. No vision of the future or sharing the issues he is weighing in deciding about the post-lockdown. Just a feel-good moment curated by India’s photo-op prime minister.”

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