‘Power’less in India

The price that India is beginning to pay for the entitlement politics practiced, with very few interruptions, since Independence is high and is climbing. Industrialists from the prosperous industrial town of Coimbatore protested against the prolonged interruptions to the power supply:

Members of 31 industrial associations and their workforce staged a demonstration at Gandhipuram in Coimbatore on Friday protesting the frequent and prolonged power cuts. Over 25,000 big, medium and small units of the Coimbatore region were shut down on Friday in protest against unscheduled and long hours of load-shedding. [Full news report here]

Today, a good friend from Tamil Nadu sent me this link. The accumulated losses of the Generation and Distribution Company in Tamil Nadu whose short-form – TANGEDCO – sounds similar to ‘Tangle’ are INR 545,380 million (=545 billion = 11 billion US dollars, all. appx. quantities).

Since Tamil Nadu relies on thermal power, the non-availability of coal has hit Tamil Nadu particularly hard on the power generation front. On top of it, Tamil Nadu’s competitive populism reached new heights since the turn of the millennium. Farmers – or those who manage to get themselves classified as ‘farmers’ – pay nothing for power consumption. Residential users are subsidised, regardless of their ability to pay. Industrial units cross-subsidise these two categories in return for sub-standard, unreliable quality and quantity of electric power made available by the State utility.

It is not as though India’s industries are not hamstrung in other areas, such as flexibility with respect to the hiring and shedding of labour, quality of the workforce coming out of our educational institutions, bribes, bureaucratic harassment and political pressure  for donations, etc.

There you go: that is the complete set of ingredients for achieving a 10% growth rate, without any omission!

The ‘BusinessLine’ article referred to above names several private power producers who are being bankrupted by the inability of TANGEDCO to pay for the power it bought from them. It is true that coal mining pollutes the environment, threatens the livelihood of people settled in those areas and that of flora and fauna. But, how does one make a value judgement that the livelihoods damaged by the non-availability of power are less important than that of the endangered flora, fauna and the people living there.

If we break our heads long enough, we should be able to find ways to avoid EITHER-OR solutions. If the alternative is to move away from a development model that is not resource-intensive, then protesters and their movements  should realise that such things are not feasible overnight.

I just read that the gentleman leading the protest movement against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu is dictating who should be in the government experts’ panel and who should not be. The news-item is a tragicomedy. He says that his ultimate goal is the closure of the plant. Then, which expert would be acceptable to him? Only those who back its closure?

When I was in  Chennai in December, I do recall reading an interview of the gentleman leading the protest movement. He said that he was motivated by the risk of cancer arising out of the nuclear plant. Today, the risk of cancer is everywhere with wireless radiation, the use of mobile phones, through ingesting carcinogenic exhaust fumes from the two-stroke engines plying on Indian roads, etc. The list is endless.

More people may die out of hunger, malnutrition from lack of incomes and employment if there is no electricity than those who die of cancer from nuclear radiation.

We cannot dam, we cannot mine and we cannot go nuclear. This may not restore the glory of India’s ancient civilisation, but it surely will take India back to the Old Stone Age.

Scheming/Ignorant Protesters and Selfish/Corrupt Politicians and Indifferent public = Powerless India (pun intended here).

This post originally appeared at The Gold Standard and is posted with permission.

4 Responses to "‘Power’less in India"

  1. LOURDUWILSON   February 13, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    DEAR SIR…IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE..AND ENJOY LIFE..CAN NOT THE ORDINARY FISHERFOLK AND FARMERS ALSO ENJOY THAT RIGHT?. IF YOU WANT TO HAVE NEUCLEAR POWER, PLS HAVE IT IN YOUR PREMISES OR IN YOUR AREA OF COIMBATORE AND ENJOY IT WITH YOUR CHILDREN AND GENERATIONS WITH FREE RADIATION AND BLESSINGS. THEY PROTEST FOR THEIR RIGHT AND YOU CAN ALSO VOICE YOUR RIGHT IF YOU ARE ALSO A CITIZEN OF INDIA.THANK YOU.

  2. LOURDUWILSON   February 13, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    PROFESSOR UDAYAKUMAR IS A SOUTH INDIAN GANDHI..IF YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO TALK TO HIM..YOU WILL BE ALSO TRANSFORMED. HE IS SUCH A HOLY HINDU RELIGIOUS MAN ORGANISING THE CHRISTIANS, HINDUS AND MUSLIMS AND DALITS.PLS..BE OPEN TO VOICE OF GOD.THANK YOU

  3. bharath   February 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Don't you know that this author lives in Singapore and a citizen there. But writes only bad about India. And the author should first address how his new mother country- Singapore is producing electricity ( it is by burning fuel ). And if India follows singapore then income gap between poor and rich widens further, people have to pay millions of dollars for a pigeon hole house and lose all culture, tradition and even historical monuments. Basically all these people advocate people to take lot of loans from banks and invest in modern technology while they forget how people can also progress with natural resources.

  4. Deva Sagayam   February 14, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Viewing issues in isolation is stupid.
    The Government now feeds all school going children free in the afternoon. Making sure they have light to study is equally important for India.
    11 billion is small when totality considered. It is easy to envisage the behavior of Singapore, not so easy of TN, let alone India.
    Almost all industries generate their own power. This probably equals state power production.