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An unprecedented ongoing strike resulting in the closure of as many as nine coal mines in Talcher Coalfields over 11 days threatens to cause major power crisis across several states.
The 3000Mw NTPC-Kaniha power plant, the second-largest power station in India, has shut four units of 500 Mw each and several other power plants in critical condition.
Shockingly, despite several appeals almost on a daily basis both by the Mahanadi Coalfield Ltd and NTPC, neither the Odisha government nor the centre has initiated steps to resolve the crisis caused by a strike first by the BJP (for eight days) and then by villagers allegedly backed by the ruling BJD.
Political one-upmanship has plunged the power stations to critical condition. The irony of it all is that the state government has, on pen and paper, invoked the essential services maintenance act in the region prohibiting strike and disruptions.
There is total inaction on the part of the government. The CMD of MCL had camped for a couple of days at Talcher, the top authorities of the government were told of the serious ramifications of the strike.
The gravity of the situation that has already caused a loss to the exchequer of over Rs 139 crore besides affected over 30,000 families in the area dependent on coal-related activity is yet to dawn on the government lament sources in the power and coal sector here.
The loss to the MCL is over Rs 213 crore and the power generation loss to the tune of 3339.04 Million Units.
A strata collapse in Bharatpur coal mines in which four workers died on 24 July triggered a strike. The Angul unit of the BJP ensured that besides Bharatpur mines, the other eight mines are also closed.
For eight days the BJP held fort demanding compensation, job, safety audit etc. Finally the district authorities, MCL and BJP arrived at a settlement.
But within hours of the stir being called off, villagers allegedly backed by the ruling BJD agitated and continued the blockade of the nine coal mines.
There was no reason for all nine mines to be shut on issues related to the Bharatpur mines. The demand put up was compensation of Rs 3 crore and a permanent job to next of kin.
MCL sources said they had committed to abide by the act and rules in providing compensation and jobs in the contract agencies that are engaged in the coal mines.
But the villagers remain adamant.
The Power producer NTPC, Kaniha has been forced to close 4 of its 6 units, Talcher Thermal Power Plant(TTPS) is running at 50% Plant Load factor(PLF).
Major Power Plants in Southern India namely, APGENCO, APPDCL in Andhra Pradesh, TANGEDCO, Neyvelli Lignite Corporation and NTEL ( A joint venture of NTPC & TNEB) in Tamil Nadu, and KPCL in Karnataka all have reported depleting stocks of coal and on the verge of shutting down their units, said MCL sources.
If it is shut down due to want of coal several states including Odisha which are drawing power from the plant will be plunged into a severe power crisis.
Never in the history of NTPC Kaniha so many units were shut down due to coal. The power major is running two units by sourcing coal from Singernni, IB Valley and other mines.
The daily requirement to run all the six units is 55000 tonne of coal, according to NTPC source
NTPC authorities have intimated to all the state governments about the situation. It has also apprised the state and the central government.
Talcher Thermal power station (TTPS), is also in the red and has closed three units of the six that it has.
“We are having only 19000-tonne stock to run the plan for two days only. That is also wet coal which is making difficult to use in the plant>we are running one of six units at present” said sources at TTPS.
The coal situation in captive power plants of industries like JITPL, GMR and JSPL have also plunged into a crisis.
Meanwhile, the Talcher Truck Owners Association submitted a letter the Collector, Angul, expressing anguish over the closure which has led to non-payment of instalments and loss of daily wages to the 10,000 Truck Drivers, Helpers and Daily wage workers who are suffering from lack of food and water.
Even the 15000 permanent employees of MCL and the 10,000 Contractual Employees working in MCL are undergoing hardship since all offices and mines have been closed down by the protestors.