Mumbai, Apr 04, 2020: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s latest call - to switch off lights for nine minutes at 9 pm on Sunday and light candles, diyas (earthen lamps) to fight the darkness brought upon the country by coronavirus pandemic - "can affect emergency services", the Maharashtra Energy Minister said. In a message, he has urged the citizens not to turn off all the lights at the same time.
"We should rethink before switching off all the lights at the same time at our homes. This can lead to a grid failure and affect emergency services," Dr Nitin Raut said, NDTV reported.
Explaining what he meant, he added: "Putting off the lights together at the same time can lead to a huge difference in demand and supply. Due to the lockdown, the demand has already decreased from 23,000 megawatt to 13,000 megawatt as factory units are not operating."
"If all lights are put off at the same time, it can lead to a potential blackout, which will also affect the emergency services. It may take up to 12-16 hours to restore services. In fight against coronavirus pandemic, electricity is an important tool," he said.
On Friday, PM Modi, in his third address to the nation in the last few weeks on COVID-19 pandemic, urged people across India to switch off their lights and hold candles, lamps and mobile flashlights at 9 pm on Sunday, April 5, for 9 minutes in a nationwide show of solidarity, to fight the darkness of coronavirus.
"We must all together, challenge the darkness spread by the coronavirus crisis, introducing it to the power of light. No one is alone during the lockdown, the collective superpower of 130 crore Indians is with every citizen," he said in a video address.
The appeal prompted sharp reactions from opposition leaders. "Listened to the Pradhan Showman. Nothing about how to ease people’s pain, their burdens, their financial anxieties. No vision of the future or sharing the issues he is weighing in deciding about the post-lockdown. Just a feel-good moment curated by India’s Photo-Op PrimeMinister!" tweeted Congress leader Shashi Tharoor.
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra tweeted: "Turn out lights & come on balconies? GET REAL MR. MODI! Give India fiscal pkg worth 8-10pc of GDP. Ensure immediate wages to construction & other labour during lockdown- laws exist permitting this. Stop gagging real press in name of curbing fake news (sic)."
Maharastra housing minister Jitendra Awhad said: "I don’t understand why they want to make an event of everything. This is nothing but foolishness, childishness."
Across India, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to 68 deaths, infected over 2,900 people. Worldwide, the coronavirus count has crossed 1-million mark, killing over 50,000.
India has entered tenth day of a total lockdown, announced by PM Modi last week to ensure social distancing, one of the ways to prevent spread of highly infectious coronavirus.