My laptop does not have a backlit keyboard. That is a direct consequence of my stupid assumption that there will be plenty of light in the surroundings for me to work, when I work. It also points to my parsimony, but let’s overlook that for the present. The consequence of not having a backlit keyboard had not hit me until now; today, to be precise. And all the credits for making my lack of prospicience apparent, thereby humbling me, goes to our very own democratic government.
I am blaming our government for this misery that we all are in. This massive grid failure that is gradually making the prospect of seeing RGV film a Bollywood version of “Darkness Falls” becoming very real is indeed the failure of the government at the seat of power. However, like my imprudent decision in not buying a backlit keyboard and facing the consequences later, the power crisis today is just one of the many consequences of wrong policies adopted by our government, the one at the seat now and all the ones before it, and therefore not surprising. In fact, we had it coming.
I know you would expect me to go all technical about power generation, capacity, supply versus demand economics, etc., etc., etc. I will, sadly (or perhaps not so sadly to likeminded people) disappoint by saying that my line of argument is, well, demographical. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I am of the opinion that this power crunch is due to our country’s unbridled population (human) growth.
Go on, shut the page down or click another link and check out. I know this argument is old and therefore boring (to some). But truth remains truth, in chiton or in Vuitton.
In reading the reasons behind this power failure, I found that extreme shortage of fuels is one of the major reasons why the thermal power plants were generating power well below capacity for the last couple of days, finally succumbing to complete fuel starvation. The hydropower plants have been impoverished due to water scarcity, rampant across the country. The situation has been made worse due to inadequate monsoon rains this season. Summing it up, widespread resource crunch is to be blamed for this national dive into darkness (Why doesn’t India send a diving team to the Olympics any year? We are so good at taking plunges, in economy, in education, in health, and now in power, we are so sure to win some gold).
Returning to the topic and my argument of population explosion being the root cause behind this national disaster (children, note this example down as one of the greatest manmade disasters you have witnessed in your time), why do you think resources get ‘crunched’? It doesn’t really take an economist to interpret that. And the ‘crunching cause’ is increasing exponentially every day.
I recently visited several towns and cities in the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and the union territory of Pondicherry. In all the places that I tried to explore on foot (and that is the best way to explore, as all know), I found crossing the streets an exceedingly difficult affair. Two wheelers and three wheelers were more abundant there than winged termites in the evening after rains. Sighting of a non-powered mode of transportation was a rarity and I believe I did not spot a single rickshaw in Pondicherry.
The situation is the same, if not worse in the northern states. A kid in secondary classes is deemed eligible to ride a bike long before the education board grants him the right to sit for his secondary exams.
When the plants and animals died all those years ago in the Carboniferous period, they had not anticipated that their long decayed body products would be so much in demand. Had they known, perhaps they would have organized their death and decay to ensure better and more fossilization; perhaps they would have coerced their friends and family to commit to a suicide pact. Even then, our demand for fuel would have been hard to meet.
But not just for transportation. Fuel is used widely for operating generators which again were used extensively this summer to power air conditioners and irrigation pumps. With economization of electrical gadgets in the annual budget, most households have ACs these days which are seldom, if ever set at the optimal 24°-25° Celsius marks, which is known to save power. And the number of households is, yes you guessed it, exploding daily.
Monsoon, being late and inadequate, this year, irrigation had to rely on artificially pumping water which again was aided by subsidized fuel plans for farmers. I support this idea of providing farmers with subsidized diesel for irrigation. But if the number of mouths to be fed in the country increases faster than bacteria can reproduce, the burden of producing enough food for them increases proportionally as well, thereby increasing intensive agriculture, multi-cropping and other agricultural practices which dig into more and more resources, that is fuel.
Water scarcity is also attributable to increasing population pressure on the rivers, even the rains. Have you seen the banks of a major river lately? Houses, rather shacks, go down all the way to the very edges of the river, blocking channels and silting up the river bed. Municipal refuges dumped on river banks keep clogging up our water channels in every town and city. Deforestation to create new housing estates is the major reason behind ground water depletion and unpredictable rainfall.
By now the correlation is quite apparent. Resources, chiefly fuels and water, are exhaustible. But our population, sadly, is showing the reverse trend. I, by no means, want to see our population dying off with the threat of our race getting extinct in the next 100 years. No. I want to see our population growth stabilized so that all the services that we expect from our government are received uninterrupted. For instance, no more such major black out in the future.
But that is not going to happen unless we check our population. You cannot expect accountability from our government if our population is itself not countable. And our own government is to be blamed for that, again.
Is it so difficult to introduce a healthy two-child policy, rigidly? Surely, it is a lesser crime to raise two kids (even if they are both girls) and control further childbearing than begetting and abandoning the child, or worse, making it beg for its own food? On my return train from Andhra Pradesh, a 5 year old boy kept somersaulting and body contorting in the moving train, to the beating drums of his mother, to earn meager sums to feed, get this, not just himself and his mother, but also his infant sibling in his mother’s lap. I, speaking only for myself, would never want to see a kid born to beg on trains. If that makes me cruel, move on Cruella De’Vil.
Today’s power cut is hitting all, us Indians. But it is temporary. Think of the darkness these urchins are in. They shall be in it until they come of age and then spread the darkness themselves by begetting and letting their offspring share the same fate. Am I suggesting forced sterilization? No. But I am urging the educated and less unfortunate citizens (those, at least, who are reading my blog) to speak up and demand better birth control policies to be introduced by the government. The government benefits from nurturing less educated, less informed, but more abundant populace; at least at election times. But that doesn’t help India grow. And one of these major grid failures from time to time brings that truth out in the full glare of the world.
When there is darkness within, a thousand power grids can’t solve the problem.
Snap from a local train. Thank you Dipen Bhunia for letting me borrow your photograph for the post.
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