The country that is being touted as the super power of the future saw a red letter day in its history when 300 million people of Northern India were afflicted by a power outage that lasted for more than 15 hours, scripting in golden letters the worst blackout of the decade. And I was a witness to the event when this saga was being scrolled!
The Northern Grid that collapsed supplies electricity to Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.
The bolt from the blue hit the water distribution system and Metro services with the operations at the Airport largely remaining unaffected due to the diesel generating back up system. A total of roughly 35,669 MW power had been affected due to the failure in the northern grid and the power for emergency services was restored on a priority basis by taking loans from western and eastern regions as well as Bhutan.
At 2 am a blinding black out gave way to what I thought could have been a usual summer siesta that the power usually took in the hot humid days of July.! The morning was a shocker with the radio jockey telling the city in a sadistic somberness that the northern grid had failed and much of the northern Indian sub-continent will have to live through the ordeal as a changeless choice. I wondered if this was the run to the aspirations of being a super power, where even a stray pet could plunge millions to darkness.
Some astonishing facts baring the truth about the powerless promises we are often handed out before an election as a pamphlet of ambitious manifestos.
In 2011, 289 million people – 25% of India's population – had no access to electricity. In rural areas that figure rises to 33%, according to a report from the Indian government in 2011. Estimates from the International Energy Agency suggest that even in 2030, not all Indian homes will have electricity, according to AEA calculations.
India is the world's fifth-largest electricity producer after the US, China, Japan and Russia, but its per capita consumption is among the world's lowest. In 2009, Indians used 571 kWh per capita, compared with the US, which consumed 12,914 kWh per head.
Indian politicians are forever coming up with new electricity-saving wheezes. The state of Punjab has just banned air conditioning units in all government offices and from 1 August will cut office hours to 8am to 2pm with no lunch.
There was outrage in June when the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, decreed that all malls were to shut at 7pm in a bid to save power.
India's power supply is so insecure that even a stray pet can plunge millions into darkness. On Saturday, a cat leapt into a Delhi grid station and was electrocuted, causing a fire that left parts of east Delhi without power for 24 hours.
Of all the callous tongue-in-cheek comments what astonished me most was this, when the US faced a similar failure in 2008, it took power from India.? Was that the joke of the decade just like this power outage, being the biggest power failure of the decade!
Did the hollow hubris that the Power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde displayed shamelessly on the television screens and news papers make sense and will they ever manage to get those below the poverty line, uninterrupted electricity? Is this the kind of dream India as a super powerful nation is nurturing? They say that whenever the power bills are anted up, we the middle class never get tired of cribbing like four year olds, but do they ever even understand, these minters of free services of power, gas, water and other basic amenities, the plight of a victim who pays their taxes in toil and sweat and gets an inflated zero in return?