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13 Jul 2017

GJM shuts 2 NHPC power plants in Hills, ..govt sees little impact.... Ramam and Jaldhaka Hydel also shut

Deep Gazmer | TNN | Jul 13, 2017 | Darjeeling: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on Wednesday shut down two hydel power stations in the Hills, taking the number of power stations held to ransom to five since the start of this round of agitation.

The GJM move is being seen as a desperate bid to force the state government and the Centre into talks with Hills parties over the Gorkhaland statehood demand. The Bengal government, however, pooh-poohed the impact of these shutdowns. State power minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay said Bengal was a power-surplus state now and this mode of agitation, which worked in the 1980s, would not have any impact now.

The two NHPC hydel projects — Teesta Lower Dam-III at Rambi Bazar, 20 kilometres down Teesta Bazar in Kalimpong, and Teesta Lower Dam-IV at Kalijhora in the foothills — have a total generation capacity of 292 MW. Bengal's power availability from different sources, including the central pool, is 13,825 MW and its peak demand is 6,961 MW, state power department officials say.

GJM supporters on Wednesday marched to the lower reaches of the Hills to the two power stations, with their leaders saying the move was aimed at disrupting power supply to the plains in Bengal as a tit-for-tat move against the "blockade of essential food items to the Hills". "The state government is acting in an inhuman way. Food and other essentials are being stopped from reaching the Hills," GJM central committee member Miren Lama alleged.

The project chief engineer reported that daily generation anyway was being affected in phases since June 9 but, on Wednesday, a crowd of 500-600 Gorkhaland agitators mobbed the office and asked for a total shutdown of the plants. "We have informed the authorities in Delhi about the current situation. We have been advised to stop work, which we have done from on Wednesday," a project official said.

Agitators earlier forced a shutdown of the Rammam project at Lodhama in Darjeeling and two other projects in the Jaldhaka basin of Kalimpong. All these projects were commissioned in 2000, when the West Bengal State Electricity Board (WBSEB) ran a deficit of 331 MW during peak evening hours.

"But the scenario has changed and Bengal is a power-surplus state now. All generating stations are linked to the national power grid," the state power minister said. "I have come to know that one of the Teesta Lower Dam projects was being managed by a private company. I have taken note of this. But this won't affect power supply in the state. I have asked the WBSEB chairman to get in touch with the state administration and beef up security in WBSEB-run projects but we would not like to get into any confrontation," Chattopadhyay added.

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