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Wednesday, July 28, 1999 Published at 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK

World: South Asia

India's Y2K woes

Fears have been raised of severe power disruption

One of India's largest private companies has warned that the country is insufficiently prepared to take on the millennium bug.

Hindustan Lever, part of the Unilever group, took out advertisements in Indian newspapers on Wednesday to warn of the dangers faced by the country's public utility companies - particularly power.

The company included the warning in its quarterly financial results, which were published in major national newspapers.

It said industrial production could be severely disrupted if the power and telecommunications sectors failed to gain Y2K compliance in time.

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"This is of critical importance, not only for the company, but for the entire economy," a company spokesman is reported to as saying.

A US State Department official is reported to have raised similar concerns.

"Most worrisome is the presently largely unknown vulnerability of the ocean shipping sector and the 70% of the electrical power industry that is under the control of the state electricity boards, large parts of which are only beginning basic inventories and assessments," State Department Inspector-General Jacquelyn Williams-Bridges told a US senate Y2K committee.


The main worry is in India's creaky power distribution system, which is handled by local state electricity boards (SEBs).

While some of them are said to be taking steps to reach compliance, others are reported to be lagging far behind.

"The problem with the power industry is that it is controlled by the SEBs in individual states rather than a single, centralised force, and some states are at different levels when it comes to Y2K compliance," said a senior director of the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Fears of a major disruption in power supply are also based on the fact that all the Indian states are interlocked in a power grid. Problems in one state could, therefore, easily affect the entire system.

The Indian Government set up a task force to look into the millennium bug problem only in the middle of 1998. But business leaders are reported to have lobbied hard with the government to take the problem more seriously.

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US Senate Special Committee on Y2K

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