Announcing Launch of New Site Design named StelianaKX

It has been a while since the project was started and within few days we had a design from, a friend, Kamaleshwar Morjal (aka @kamalx) . That was May of 2011. The logo seemed perfect and appropriate. Since then it has become the symbol of the project and I’d like to thank @kamalx for this vital contribution. He also posted the site design idea for PowerCutsIN on his site here.

Like many other volunteer driven projects, the PowerCutsIN project also faces the problem of people and their time constraints. Kamal and I were dealing with life transitions (job change etc). Due to the time constraint Kamal was not able to work on the design and convert it into a theme for Ushahidi.

September 2012  - one of my friend Steliana Guta, offered to help with the site design and I was excited and asked her if she’d be willing to work on the existing design which would save some time for her. As a result, she was able to convert the design into a usable Ushahidi theme in less than 4 working days! It was really impressive watching her do this quickly and I was glad that she was patient enough to hear by advise and suggestions on integrating the design and learning how the Ushahidi framework worked.

After contributions from three (very) creative minds (Kamalx, me & Steliana) the new design is live on the PowerCutsIN website. The name of the website design is named after its two creators – PowerCutsIN – StelianaKX. I would like to thank them both.


Do share your feedback and suggestions on the design! – and help spread the word.

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Power Cuts India wins the mBillonth 2012 Awards for m-News & Journalism

mBillionth award for mobile innovators recognizes people across South Asia who show exceptional courage and leadership in minimizing the digital divide and advocating empowerment through mobile devices and contents. 21 winners in the same domain get felicitated at the mBillionth Award Ceremony on 21st July 2012 in New Delhi. All the Winners has been directly considered as Nominee for WSA Mobile 2012.

I am happy to share the news that the PowerCutsIN project won the mBillionth Award this year under the Category m-News & Journalism. The complete list of winners is here and the award book is available to download here: PDF.

The Award @mbillionth 2012

I would like to thank each and every person who has contributed to the project and the jury of the mBillionth Awards. Many congratulations to all the other winners of the award.


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India’s largest blackout in History on July 2012

Power cuts in India are common. The recent massive collapse of India’s power grid was the worst in the decade. Three out of the five regional power grids collapsed leaving about 670 million people powerless making July 2012 as the largest blackout month in history.

First, the Northern Region Grid collapsed at about 2.35 am on 30th July, 2012 due to increased load and gird disturbance leaving nine states of Northern India powerless including Delhi, the capital of India. Nearly 350 million suffered due to this power outage which resulted for about a day. Restoration work followed with major networks of Rails, Airports, Metro and other important areas being restored under the direction of CEO, POSOCO and POWER Grid’s Chairman & Managing Director  as stated by Power Grid Corporation of India. Finally, at about 8.00 AM power supply to the essential services and other essential load in Northern India were restored with the help of neighbouring Bhutan’s hydroelectric power. And by 11.00 AM about 60% of load of the Northern Region was restored extending to most cities and towns by 12.30 P.M gearing up power supply from eastern and western grids. Progressively, the northern gird was back to normalcy at about 19.00 hrs.

But, within 24 hours of restoration work, again the Northern region grid collapsed for the second time on 31, July 2012 at around 1pm local time on Tuesday. This time the sudden power outage resulted in collapse of two more regional girds namely, the Eastern and the North-Eastern regional Grids which spread across 20 of India’s 28 states leaving about 620 million people affected. Half of India’s country like Delhi, Bihar, Orissa, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh etc were facing blackout Tuesday with more problems like massive traffic jams due to failed traffic lights, miners being trapped underground as lifts failed, metro services coming to an halt and people were left scorching in the summer heat. Then by late evening, half of the power was restored (around 25000 MW of the total 50,000 MW). Supply to the affected regions is being extended from western and southern Grids. The hydro stations in the northern region started working and supply has been restored up to Punjab and Haryana .[Source: The Hindu ]

Possible Reasons of the happening:

India has five regional grids in total according to geographical area which covers the different state’s electrical power system namely Northern Region (NR), Eastern Region(ER), Western Region (WR), Southern Region (SR) and North-East Region (NER), out of which the NR, ER, WR and NER are synchronized and is known as the NEW Grid. SR, on the other hand is not synchronized with the rest of the regions and hence runs on a slightly different Frequency and connected with WR and ER with HVDC links only. [Source: Wikipedia]

Each regional Grid is like a big machine with constant energy flowing thereby balancing the loads on the equipment. Any imbalance in loads due to huge demand causes a drop in voltage making the equipment to heat up due to large flow of current. In a home circuit when similar situation happens, the fuse blows up breaking the circuit and thereby preventing any hazards. For the grids with minor problems, the load is re-balanced by re-routing the power to the lines. But, if there is too much demand, then load reduction is done by shutting down powers in some areas using its hybrid system. Sometimes, any disturbance like trees falling over the wires can causes increase in demand in power causing overflow of current since the tree act as a giant resistor. In that case, the power outage happens and the transmission line has to be shut down. [From: Anatomy of Powercuts]

In our 2012 power outage case, First Post India stated Times Now channel reporting that Uttar Pradesh was drawing more power than the prescribed quota leading to the collapse of the three grids to which UP government strongly objected to. Though the actual reason of the collapse is unknown, India’s demand for electricity has soared up in recent years with its developing economy. And this year, with the monsoons being weak making places hotter and dryer than usual, drives up the consumption of energy in huge amounts. Our very own Grid system being old, build on inadequate and outdated infrastructure is still unable to meet the country’s demand. It should be remembered that the last time the northern grid failed was in the year 2001[AK1].  [Source: NDTV]

Relevant news reports:


Power cut causes major disruption in northern India – 30 July 2012

In pictures: India’s power crisis deepens – 31 July 2012

New York Times

2nd Day of Power Failures Cripples Wide Swath of India – a yawning absence of governmental action and leadership


PM asks Moily for report on power failure  – August 06, 2012

DelhiPower Failure – Updates and Results  by NDTV

The Hindu

Delhi is Powerless –August 1, 2012

Times of India

Live Updates on Power Outage -World’s biggest blackout- July 31, 2012

Major power failure in north India, Delhi Metro services hit –August 7, 2012

Business Today

GRID FAILURE: India Inc seeks urgent power sector reforms  – 30 July, 2012

Massive power cuts across north, east India; reasons unknown – 31 July, 2012

Economic Times India on Sushilkumar Shinde -The most powerless man to hold home minister portfolio? – August 6, 2012

Zee News

North India blackout: Blame it on states ON what led to such a massive power failure?

Good News admist the power failures in India – People started questioning as well as looking into other alternative plans pushing the Government to look into this issue  

Power grid failure: Amid gloom, Gujarat sets an example – August 1, 2012

National geographic – On Energy Planning July 31, 2012

Yahoo News – Power restored across India after historic failure -August 1, 2012

Twitter Feeds

In India, although power is restored, doubts remain: NEW DELHI— Asked to rate his performance as Indi… ( August 8, 2012)

As Power Is Restored in India, the ‘Blame Game’ Over Blackouts Heats Up #powergrids ( –August 8, 2012)

For hundreds of millions in #India, every night is a #blackout ( –August 8, 2012)

The Government

The chairman of the Power Grid Corporation of India, R N Nayak told the news that thought the exact cause of the power cut was unclear it appeared to be due to the “interconnection of grids”.

The country’s power minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, blamed the states themselves for “overdraw” of electricity. Instead of sorting out this mess, “the unimpressive Mr Shinde was promoted on Tuesday afternoon to home minister. (by

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Using data to challenge the status quo

[Guest post by Shefaly Yogendra]

One of the earliest finds of the crowd-sourced Power Cuts In India project was that the problem wasn’t just urban, nor limited to a few cities – although Gurgaon was reportedly the first location to check in so to speak. Reports came thick and fast from across India suggesting a wide-spread problem of mismatch in supply and demand of electricity.

Although it is likely that more reports come in from the domestic sector, power cuts blight the industrial sector too. The adverse effect of these power cuts on on national productivity as well as citizens’ quality of life is anybody’s guess.

How to start to challenge the status quo?

One way would be to use the data from this Project to open a meaningful, data-backed dialogue between citizens on the one hand, and suppliers of electricity as well as policy makers on the other.

Data on power cuts in a city, even a neighbourhood, could be collated, then matched with local production capacity. The awareness can both enable a discussion with suppliers on why supply falls short of demand, as well as enable households to manage consumption/ demand at the consumer end. For instance, power that can be saved by reducing how many devices we keep on stand-by and for how long.

In the comments section below, do share your own views on how the Project can help address this recurrent problem.

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First Video Report from Karcha Village in Banda, Uttar Pradesh

September 16, 2011: This is the house of Mr. Sukhdev from Karcha Village, Banda, Uttar Pradesh where I had a chance  to visit during one of my work visits.

In this report we hear Sukhdev highlight the following key points: [link to report]

  1. When the transformer at their village burns out and needs repairing, unless they pool in money to pay to the district electricity department, they do not get a replacement. Which technically seems to be a bribe.
  2. The load on these transformers is high since many people use wire tap to the source lines to draw electricity to their homes even without a connection, which adds extra load on the transformer beyond its capacity due to which it fires and goes bad.
  3. They have electricity for around 10 hours mostly only during the nights when the transformers are working.
  4. Due to electricity, his kids can study during the dark for a couple of hours.
  5. Using fans, when there is power helps them to get rid of mosquitoes & diseases caused by them during summers.
  6. When there is no electricity during the night its scary because of threat of theft in the village.

You can view the video here with English subtitles below: [YouTube link]

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Defining the purpose of our project

When the site was initially started, it just had one vague purpose “to crowdsource data: duration, frequency, type (planned/unplanned), about power cuts in India”. Gradually a lot of ideas started popping in on what else can be done on the open document and emails, twitter. Slowly it became clear that there should be a specific focus and objectives of any such info-activism project. After observing the project through these months and allowing it to develop organically and take its own shape, I have come up with these thoughts which should be our focus for the project and I seek your comments on this:

In my opinion, any Citizen Media driven project has these core components and purpose:

  1. News is contributed by the citizens by use of various forms of media.
  2. Voices of the citizens are given a platform to be heard globally and escalated.
  3. Is for the sole purpose of “public interest”.
  4. Acts as a platform for the citizens to connect, envision, communicate and act about issues relevant to them.

The purpose of PowerCuts.IN:

  1. Escalating Unheard Voices: Highlight the power cut issue in India by escalating community reported news.
    We got a report from Sector 7, Channi Himmat, Jammu (see report) just after few days since the site was launched. Gradually observing the media reports and the areas it covers in terms of reporting electricity problems, I barely have found them reporting anything beyond urban/semi-urban power problems.
  2. Awareness & Accountability: Spreading information about what the government is doing, latest happenings in the Energy Sector and making the tax payer aware.
    During my journeys in rural India, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand I have found that lack of electricity/power outage is a major problem there. Then one day I came across the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyudikaran Yojana (Rural Electricity Scheme) with a common minimum goal of providing electricity to all households in 5 years. I couldn’t see it working in the areas I went or maybe I needed to dig more and compare with what government reports and the real situation on the ground.
  3. Identifying Problems: For e.g. Citizens can report power theft if they witness it or their electricity usage patterns and then compare with supply in their area.
    There are other problems than just demand, supply for e.g. power theft, usage patterns etc.
  4. Accessibility: Making it easy for people to report data using various mediums and publishing data in open, accessible formats.
    Having various mediums of reporting: like Voice(phone call), SMS, Internet, Mobile Apps the objective of the project is to be able to reach out to the maximum possible masses and enable effective citizen media reporting. Since the data/information on the site is citizen generated, it is also provided back to the public in open accessible formats with a non restrictive license.

I wrote a project plan a few months back (here) and would be iterating on that in the coming days. Please feel free to provide your comments and suggestions here or over email to me or by joining our mailing list.

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Story of PowerCuts.IN: How it all started?

It all began on Twitter: [Refer]

  • May 4 2011 03:13 PM – @netra tweets “Power Cut! #santacruz #Mumbai”
  • May 4 2011 03:15 PM – @nixxin replies “If Delhi-NCR started tweeting power cuts like this, it would trend in India all year”
  • May 4 2011 03:17 PM – @shefaly replied “May be you guys SHOULD tweet #powercut with location. The infographic will highlight the need for investment. To many people.”
  • May 4 2011 03:25 PM – @nixxin sends out a call “Please Tweet if there’s a power cut in your area in India this summer; Someone can map it. Format <area> #powercutindia (idea frm @shefaly)”
  • May 4 2011 03:37 PM – @ajuonline asks @nixxin ”where will this mapped?”
  • May 4 2011 03:41 PM – @ajuonline replies to @nixxin “I am setting up the site. It should be up in 5 :)”
  • Site setup by @ajuonline precisely at May 04, 2011 15:41.


With the power of some geeky skills by me @ajuonline (devoting time, code, server space etc) and power of free and open source software Ushahidi, a simple tool for Crowdsourcing Location based information.

The project was started without any definite purpose and direction and purely bv volunteer efforts. It has slowly evolved into what you see on the site now as a result of, as people tell me, ”design thinking” and “persistence” involving a lot of feedback from the community – crowdsourced ideas.

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