Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Power, power, super-power!

 Yes, it was the world's "biggest" power-failure affecting 600 million people in the north and in the east. Yes, the metro in Delhi stopped working and many passengers were stranded. Yes, it happened in the world's largest democracy. And yes, if you happened to open Google News on July 31, you have seen coverage from across the world with not only descriptions but prescriptions for resolving power crises.

Points to ponder:

1)     It is via Google News that I learned of the power crisis. Why is this important? Because the culture of "power back-ups" may well have contributed to the persistence of an inefficient power system.

2)     Is this kind of power-failure a political move by the government? Anna Hazare seems to think so: a conspiracy to dismantle protest in front of Jantar Mantar by preventing people from attending the hunger-strike using metros.  It sounds a little too conspiratorial and too costly a move, but you never know, I guess!

3)     A reshuffle of the cabinet following the power-outage indicates that the government is embarrassed. And with good reason. How can India be the "next super power" with such power failures?!

4)     For neo-liberalized India, quick solutions are to be found in further liberalization, it looks like. Reuters ran a story yesterday on how to find hope in India's power outage, arguing this outage will spur reforms and investments and can change the experience of liberalization itself. Does anyone remember the sections on incrementalism in Stiglitz's Globaliation and its Discontents? Please review? 

5)     I think it's worthwhile to pause. Yes, 600 million people were affected by this outage for several hours. But, people are affected everyday by a phenomenon known as "load-shedding" which can last for up to three/four hours a day in some areas. How different was this power-outage from load-shedding for the aam (ordinary people)?

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing how much media coverage the blackout is getting. Not to minimize - the extent of the power outage is truly mind-boggling, and gives a glimpse of the issues of scale which are always so pressing in India given its population. I loved the last line in the NY Times article, which cited Ramachandra Guha (historian and professional gadfly) saying, "India needs to stop strutting on the world stage like it’s a great power,” Mr. Guha said, “and focus on its deep problems within.” I also loved this piece in the New Yorker, by Ananya Vajpeyi's husband, Basharat Peer:

    People often talk about the loss of light due to power outages, but in this hot summer I imagine the most suffering comes from the loss of electricity for fans and, for the fortunate, air-conditioners.

    Thanks for the on-the-spot reports, Navine. Have a kebab at that great spot in Nizamuddin for us!