Thursday, July 2, 2009

The State of the Uttar State

I was looking forward to my 'well earned' vacation. All those assignments that crept into the nights forming intimidating nightmares; the last few days when I dreaded losing my work days as a part of my vacation. Despite all this, I did manage to meet my targets. I wouldn't say I was a key performer or pushed my business to new heights, but at least I was all fine on the book.

My first day at home was full of fun catching up with family and the usual banter that is a trademark of all our meetings. Kindly note that I use the word 'day'. Rightfully so because the evening was a nightmare. Well my home town is a place called 'Ghaziabad'. I was born in this city of U.P. which was at one time considered to be the ‘industrial hub’. The place is now popular for all the wrong reasons and I wouldn't start pointing out the ridiculous queries I get from people once they hear the name. Having spent quite some time working in Bangalore, the weather has done it’s wonders and my tolerance levels have taken a blow.

Stepping out of the aircraft at the Delhi airport, the first one to greet me were the 40 degree C winds. This range of temperature is usual around this time of the year in these regions.

I’ll skip the family events of the day and get to the evening. After a series of power cuts already executed, the electricity board decided to deprive us of power for a period of 4 hours starting right at our sleeping time. I must say I am one of the most fortunate souls of the town as my home is pretty well equipped to handle the power cuts as well as brown out scenarios. Brown out is the yankee term for a low voltage input. The normal operating voltage is supposed to be 220V but here the routine supply is rarely over 180V. However at more opportune moments- such as sleeping time, the voltage conveniently drops to sub 100V levels making it impossible for anything to be operational. In the States, I have heard of stories where individuals or corporations sue the public utilities company for brown out claiming that a mere 5% deviation from the standard operating voltage burns out their motors and other equipment. What a joke! If you big corporations are reading this, I can assure you that we Indians- particularly residents of UP have testing going on for your produce in the most extreme conditions. So if you ever plan for a feedback on extreme requirements, a test scenario to execute, you know where to look.

As I said, being one of the fortunate few- we have upgraded to a state of the art lighting system with advanced circuitry that makes sure there is some light as long as there is some power. We have two set of Inverters ( a battery based power back up unit) and all rooms have a air conditioning unit. All this- thanks to some really hard work by my parents. I feel sorry for my parents because being honest citizens and tax payers throughout their lives, they have been cheated.

One thing I’d like to point out for the day is that never once did anyone amongst us get a sip of cool water. Expecting chilled water amidst power cuts is a silly thing, that’s why I say cool. That we have one of the premium refrigerator brand to flaunt is of no help here. After all, the advertisement says it makes ice in a record time but as far as I remember, I can’t recall the smiling lady in the ad facing any shortage of electricity.

I’ll go live now- At night, with our home totally full with family from all over the world we were running 4 fans and 3 air conditioning units. Our oldest AC unit (Carrier: they call themselves world # 1 in air conditioning- ha ha) has already succumbed to the Electricity company’s atrocities and has broken down. A consistent burning smell meant that we could not use it any more. 2 Air-con units are split units which do not work at low voltages. This meant that we have just 2 window air con units left to serve us tonight- IF the voltage stays above 150V (even the voltage regulators attached to all units have an operational limit). The torture levels are elevated gradually to higher thresholds. The voltage dips further and further. The AC compressors switch off making the cooling unit capable of throwing only a blast of hot air. I can see the fan overhead decelerating until it reaches a speed where it takes 5 seconds to complete a revolution (yes I had nothing else to do- My laptop battery has died sometime back, the light was inadequate to read and the heat was not letting me sleep). After two hours, the fan speed increased to normal levels!! My groggy head slowly processes this new development and concludes that actually the power has gone again and now that the inverter is automatically online to supply the fan at normal levels. Being an opportunist, I fall asleep immediately. Where else in the world do you get so happy when there’s a power cut??

I am woken up again by a beeping sound. A look at the watch confirms that only a few hours have passed since I slept. I get up and run to the inverter which is screaming to announce its ‘discharge’ state. I switch the inverter one off and put our inverter two online to sustain us for the rest of the night. I fall asleep again.

After a while I see myself falling into a volcano. I am falling and falling for quite some time. The boiling lava below beckons me. I shudder and wake up. It was a nightmare! Back in the real world, I check the fan. The power supply is back and the fan is whirring slowly thanks to the low voltage levels.

This cycle repeats every few hours and you can very well imagine how much sleep I got on my "vacation".

The previous government had sanctioned setting up of a power plant citing the pathetic state then (which has worsened further now). The next government scrapped the project citing nepotism displayed by the previous government in favor of the private sector player who was supposed to set it up. Let me be clear that I am NOT in any way favoring or expressing gratitude to the previous government. If I were to look at the papers, I will find scores of projects in 'sanctioned' or 'under progress' state. But the harsh reality is that nothing has happened in the last 20 years. The two parties- alternating power are too busy cancelling the former’s plans and making their own new agendas. Not that any of their initiatives have been bright enough. The latest I heard was the proposal stating abolition of computers and tractors to tackle unemployment. This I found in one of the party manifestos in the recent elections. So we see that we have people who are striving for inefficiency. Since the top brass is involved, I wonder who the people have to look up as role models for development.

Will our voice be heard? I am not sure. Our madam Chief Minister is too busy establishing and inaugurating statues of her own self. But I am sure of this-Whenever a society reaches the pinnacle of decadence, there is one thing that is almost certain to happen:

A Revolution.

I don't know what shape it might take. Will there be a bloodbath? Will there be a peaceful scenario where people will come together, cleanse the system and restore a real democracy- with power actually to the people?

With all the industries and businesses moving out and the state facing a serious brain-drain, the day is not very far. We have a system where it is actually a reward for our politicians to keep the literacy levels low and sabotage the population control programs to create a vote bank: a pool that can be easily lured by a couple of cheap political stunts, antics, caste and religion. Mark my words- when things deteriorate further, people will get the bigger picture. When the people of my country wake up- God save the political scum..


  1. woah man.. i didnt know it was this bad!!! is power in UP privatised like in delhi?

  2. Nope. And the state government has no plans to do so. They're going around convincing people that private sector is evil; but the truth is that they want to retain everything they can (even though they won't be able to manage it). Gives them a sense of power.