The Gold Standard | ‘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 interruption to 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 545380 millions (=545 billions = 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 quantum 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: the complete set of ingredients for achieving 10% growth rate are there, 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 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 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.

Just read that the gentleman leading the protest movement against 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 would take India back to the Old Stone Age.

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

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.