Posted at 10:38 AM ET, 07/31/2012

Indians react to power failures

India’s power outages spread to impact more than half the country, leaving 600 million people without power in the world’s largest-ever blackout.

“More than 500 trains came to a halt, and thousands of passengers were briefly trapped inside the capital’s Metro line. There was gridlock on many streets of the capital as traffic lights stopped working. Bank ATMs also failed,” Post’s Simon Denyer and Rama Lakshmi reported.

As the power outages stretched on for a second day, those on the ground tweeted their frustration with a mixture of humor and angst:

Indian stranded passengers wait on a platform and some of them on rail tracks for the train services to resume following a power outage at Sealdah station in Kolkata, India on July 31, 2012. (Associated Press)

(Rajnikanth is a popular Indian actor, who portrays men of extraordinary power and strength in most of his movies.)

But the latest development in the power saga was less humorous. Indian news outlets reported Tuesday that current Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde will take over as the new Home Minister in a cabinet reshuffling, a development many feel is an undeserved promotion given the current circumstances:

“[The promotion] can only mean two things,” speculated Times of India columnist Ranjan Roy: “One, that political leadership of government departments is meaningless and possibly unnecessary. If that's the case, why have ministers in such departments instead of letting them be run by professionals? The second is the sheer lack of empathy for the citizenry. While ministers and top babus in Lutyens' Delhi are insulated from power cuts by dedicated transmission lines, the "aam admi"[common man] sweats it out either at work or stuck in a stalled metro or a long-distance train.”

Indian industry leaders have so far blamed the outage on a growing gap between electricity demand and supply, “something that the government has failed to tackle despite repeated pledges to do so,” the Post reported.

India has suffered consistent power shortages since its independence in 1947, according to the BBC.

“India remains perennially energy starved despite 15 percent or more of federal funds being allocated to the power sector. Bankrupt state-run electricity boards, an acute shortage of coal, skewed subsidies which end up benefiting rich farmers, power theft, and under-performing private distribution agencies are to blame, say experts,” BBC reported.

More world news coverage:

- U.S., Pakistan pact on supply routes

- India blackout leaves 600 million without power

- Japan concerned by Chinese naval activity

- Read more headlines from around the world

By  |  10:38 AM ET, 07/31/2012

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