Baby and the Bathwater

Regulators have done what they do best. Regulated. Without taking any responsibility for the creation of the problem they are trying to solve.

The Supreme Court has upheld the decision of the Environmental Pollution – Prevention and Control – Authority (EPCA) to ban diesel generators in and around Delhi, including Gurgaon.

Makes complete sense, does it not?

After all, people, fools that they are, have been increasingly resorting to buying and using diesel generators to run everything starting from lights and fans gradually progressing to increasingly heavier power-consuming gadgets like geysers, TVs and air-conditioners because they have had a regular, assured supply of grid power throughout their lives. Fools that they are, they have generated the means to, when possible, make investments in equipment like diesel generators, to provide for themselves and their dependents, a more comfortable life, at least to the extent a reliable supply of electricity can provide. In Gurgaon, a condominium without a captive diesel generating capacity is like an oxymoron, a self-contradicting phrase. Such an animal does not exist.

To be fair to them, the regulators have been fair in their failure. They have failed to provide an assured supply of power to households just as efficiently as they have failed to provide assured power to industrial establishments and to shops and establishments. The only place they seem to have failed in failing is in providing assured power to themselves. Chief Ministerial houses, Legislative Assembly buildings, and other Institutions serving the common man, for example, are often a beacon of brightness in a sea of darkness during power failures, at least in the minute or two it takes for standard diesel gensets to kick in.

It is not that we have not made progress. Far from it. During my growing up years in a small town in the northern part of India, circa seventies, there were power failures as well. However, during those days, and we probably have to blame our lack of development for the situation, they were often planned and predicted well in advance. For example, the Department of Electricity would announce that our area would have a power cut from 7 AM to 10 AM every day for the next three months.

What did that mean?

It meant that there was a power cut between 7 AM and 10 AM. And, for the rest of the time, electric supply would be uninterrupted, barring the occasional thunderstorm that brought down electric poles or uprooted trees that fell on overhead wires. Even then, we could call a number provided by the department who would be patient and provide an indication of when we could expect power supply to resume. Before Call Centres were invented.

And the elders would hold out promise of a ‘bright’ future, with uninterrupted power supply just around the corner, with the commissioning of projects like the Bhakra Nangal dam for producing hydroelectricity. That has turned out to be an endless curve with nary a corner in sight.

But we have made progress, as I alluded earlier, and it is there for all to see. Today, no such information is available. Power supply can be switched off at any time, at least in Gurgaon, many times a day, in keeping with the vision of successive governments to keep the populace on a high level of alert for any eventuality. Like an earthquake, or tsunami, or war, that can strike unannounced and requires immediate response, a power outage can strike any time and requires immediate response. What better preparation for an earthquake, tsunami or war? In the event a sudden power outage happens in Tokyo or Chicago or Frankfurt, who are the people who are the calmest and seem equipped to handle the situation? The Indians who grew up in India. Try it out.

Of course it needs to be done in a hurry. Since successive governments could not provide an assured supply of electricity over half a century, since they failed to see the rising usage of diesel powered generators over half a century, the common man needs to ensure he is equipped to handle the situation in fifteen days.

The same order also requires the RWAs (Resident Welfare Associations) to provide electric heaters to security staff. Which they can presumably run on the fresh air that will be available as a result of the Order.

“We want no electricity outages in these locations,” Ms. Sunita Narain, the well-known environment activist and a member of the EPCA, has demanded. Of course, as a power-positive society that has been repeatedly throwing away excess power, that should not be a problem to implement. Nobody had asked for it, it seems.

But wait. What about the economy, silly? Has anyone thought about the impact this will have on the GDP? Caused by people no longer buying and running a gadget that they should never have needed to buy and run. It will need to be a brave person who will give Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, our Finance Minister, the bad news.

But what is a government to do? People want clean air, don’t they? Well, they asked for it.

12 thoughts on “Baby and the Bathwater

  1. Reading your satirical article on the problems of power outages in India, I begin to realize how blessed we are to have clean hydroelectric power here in BC and to have the power company tell weeks in advance when there is a power outage due to maintenance work. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Ankur!

    • Thank you for your comments, Peter. And, I am sure I live in a place far far better, safer, more comfortable than many others. It is often the attitude of some people with the reins of power in their hands that is galling.

    • Kindred spirits. You may be familiar with the ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam’ in Indian philosophy, which loosely translates to, ‘the whole world is a family.’ Of self-serving politicians at this point.

  2. Purify the air by providing hydro-electric power and then fill the air with the rich black smoke of diesel generated power when the dam bursts, or some local gov’m’nt official decrees it is time for a blackout.

    • It’s a wonder nobody has claimed that noxious fumes are good for living beings. Or someone has invented a way of converting the fumes into trees in an instant and we should produce more noxious fumes if we want a green Earth.

  3. I think it was out of fairness that the government has banned the diesel generators. Because it’s not fair that some get to enjoy the diesel- generated electricity during a blackout, but all have to breathe the diesel exhaust.

    • There are rumblings of discontent in the smaller towns around the country, still at the receiving end of predictable power or predictable power cuts. They want the uncertainty of development through the haze of noxious fumes in their own town.

  4. I really like your beautiful blog. A pleasure to come stroll on your pages. A great discovery and very interesting blog. I come back to visit you. Do not hesitate to visit my universe. A soon.

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