As Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to the people to switch off the lights for nine minutes on 5 April, the state power department has decided to keep a backup supply system ready amidst apprehensions of grid failure due to fluctuations in consumption.

The Prime Minister yesterday urged citizens to switch off the lights at their homes and light up lamps, candles or mobile phone torches for nine minutes at 9 pm on 5 April to display the country’s “collective resolve” to defeat coronavirus.

“I had a word with my officials and engineers and our department is working to keep a backup power supply chain ready in case of any failure following the programme tomorrow night,” state power minister Sovandeb Chattopadhaya said today. Though the power system is connected to the national grid and there can be a failure due to discrepancies in power consumption at the same time. he said.

But we have a backup system, which will be put in place so that there is no problem, he said. Owing to the lockdown, most of the industries, factories and business houses are closed and the electricity demand is down, an official said.

“We have an adequate electricity supply, which will be useful as backup capacity in case of a major grid shutdown,” the minister added. Mr P B Salim, Managing Director of West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited (WBPDCL) said, “There is no need to be worried. I think it will be managed by the WBSEDCL.”

Sources said that the state government has also been told to be ready to manage the power scheduling if a need arises and keep some of their generating units in ready mode. Central utilities like NTPC may also be kept in a state of readiness to switch off. Some of their gas-based stations are easy to switch on and off as per grid requirements.

An official of Power Grid Corporation said that though the situation calls for notice, it is not alarming and the grid operators are well prepared to handle sudden drop in power demand. Officials of WBSEDCL also advice people not to shut off the power at the incoming service lines or main switch box.

“It is better to keep appliances like refrigerator, air conditioner etc on while switching off the lights,” said an official of WBSEDCL. Dr SP Gon Chowdhury, power energy expert, stated, “Since it is a known programme of nine minutes shedding of power, it would hardly have any major effect on the national grid.”

He said, “Union power minister RP Singh has already held meetings with the Power Grid Corporation of India and asked the central load despatch centres (CLDC) to request the state load despatch sections to lower the frequency by 0.5 cycles so that the load could be evenly adjusted at the time of shedding.”

“ Here we have cycles of frequency so in order to adjust the excess power surcharge they will ask the SLDCs to reduce frequency by 0.5 cycles. After 9 pm, after the programme is over, all the SLDCs will be asked to increase frequency by 0.5 cycles.”

He said in many states they have planned staggering load-shedding or preventive shedding so that when the nation switches off lights tomorrow, there will be hardly any chance of massive power outage that may lead to grid disruption. Meanwhile, Opposition parties in the state, except the BJP, have derided Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s call to switch off lights for nine minutes at 9.00 p.m tomorrow.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has. however, said that it is upto one’s individual choice to respond or not to the Prime Minister’s call. When asked for comments said she has many things to do apart from reacting to other people’s comments at a time when she is busy combating the coronavirus. Adhir Chowdhury, the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, said that he will not go by the Prime Minister’s call on Sunday and will keep the lights of his house on, provided there is no power cut.

Nor will I light a candle or flash a torch from my balcony, he said. Expressing disappointment at the Prime Minister’s announcement, PCC chief Somen Mitra said that the address during the day gives no clue how the coronavirus should be tackled by the people, some of whom have been dragged to the edge of the abyss by demonetisation and faulty GST policies.

Mitra said that he had expected some sympathy to be expressed in the Prime Minister’s speech towards the families of the migrant workers who have died while trying to walk to their far-off homes after the lockdown. Leader of the Left Front Legislature party, Sujan Chakraborty, said that the measures like clapping hands during the Janta curfew or switching on lights next Sunday does not in any way combat coronavirus.

These measures will not scare away coronavirus, he said. State panchayat minister, Subrata Mukherjee chipped in during the day in the tirade against Prime Minister Modi and wondered if coronavirus will run away if lights are switched off and candles are lit at 9,00 p.m for nine minutes tomorrow.