Police fired rubber bullets and arrested 28 people for allegedly setting fire to government property during a violent protest against power outages in northern India as it reels under a heat wave, an official said yesterday.
Three people were injured as police sought to disperse protesters who set fire to a state-owned utility’s electricity transformer and a truck on Tuesday in Gorakhpur town, Uttar Pradesh state, police spokesman Surendra Srivastava said.
He said 11 people were arrested in Gorakhpur for blocking roads and disrupting traffic to express complaints that homes have been getting power for only three hours a day.
Another eight people were arrested in Mahoba, another town in the state, for allegedly beating up government workers at a power supply center, Srivastava said. Other arrests were made in the state capital, Lucknow, and three other towns.
Those arrested were charged with rioting and attacking government workers, punishable by up to three years in prison.
Uttar Pradesh, home to 180 million people, is India’s most populous state and one of the poorest. Its inadequate energy infrastructure has been unable to cope with high demand as temperatures have peaked above 40˚C in recent days.
The power shortages have left people without air conditioning or fans — and, in some cases, water, as electric pumps failed.
Angry protesters set some government buildings on fire in Amethi, a town represented in Parliament by Rahul Gandhi, the son of the ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi.
Monsoon rains have been delayed by three weeks or more in northern India, disrupting power generation as water levels drop.
“The Uttar Pradesh state gets 5,400 megawatts of electricity against its requirement of 6,200 megawatts. The paucity of 800 megawatts is leading to frequent power cuts,” said Shailendra Dubey, an executive engineer with the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd.