Delhi is witnessing the worst power crisis in 67 years. It is the result of abdicating executive responsibility because of failure to function successfully. The Governments in the states were running Electricity Boards. Instead of entrusting the responsibility to run them to professionals, all kinds of corrupt bureaucrats and politicians were made chairman. As is the case in any situation where the incapable replace the capable, the unprofessional the professional and the dishonest the honest, these boards soon turned into dens of corruption. The means of production and supply, government or private, were the soft targets of the misguided trade unionism in the country. Striking work, with or without reason, soon turned in to a cult. It provided funds and supporters base to the left parties, who were imitated by most others too, and hence were incited in this endeavour by politicians. It promoted a culture of strikes in the power sector during extreme summers/winters; rail/road/air transport sector during peak tourist season; educational institutions during examination and admissions time; health and medical sector during epidemics etc. It affected the functioning of governments in the states and the centre and even resulted in change of government in several cases. The situation went completely out of control. India professed to be a socialist country and strikes were legitimate modes of redress of workers’ grievances. The situation changed only after liberalization process was started in India in July 1985. It facilitated entry of private sector in areas which were restricted for them so far. Power, education, health etc were some of these sectors.
In the power sector Enron was the first experiment, although it failed in a very ugly way. But it inspired the governments harassed by regular strikes and large scale corruption to open the sector to the private sector. Soon liberalization degenerated into “privatization” of public utilities such as school, college and university education or hospital/ other health care services. Privatization of airports or electricity boards was quite late. Delhi opted for privatization of power sector. It was a very bad decision. Today power is costly in Delhi without any sound reason, but the private companies have only been complaining of losses. I am sure their complaints will continue even after one year if the unit tariff of power is doubled in Delhi. It is so because of the frailty of the private sector. Thinking that the public sector is infested by corruption and hence inefficient or that the private sector is business like and honest is a skewed conclusion. The power sector in Delhi has suffered after handing it over to the private sector or privatization. In a country as diverse as India, public utilities like power distribution can not be left to the care of the private sector because they will squeeze the consumers beyond their capacity to pay and justify their actions. The cut getting politicians will always side with the private sector. But they have to learn their lessons.The Congress Party is almost decimated today. It has perverted the moral code of socialism. It has inflicted the common man with economic woes and now put them in a situation where power crisis will oppress them for no less than a full summer month with the mercury remaining at 48 C and 31 C maximum/minimum respectively. We are made to believe that repairs to the distribution towers damaged by the storm 2 weeks ago cannot be completed before another 2 weeks. We are capable of restoring smooth distribution in less than 48 hours if the work is carried out on war footing. That should be the level of our efficiency. Do I need to recall that a Foot Over Bridge under construction for almost two years crumbled a few days before the start of the CWG (Common Wealth Games), but was constructed in less than 72 hours! It has never crumbled since then. Such action demands the leadership of professionals and committed public servants, but the government has promoted the interests of the corrupt manipulators in the last 10 years. The new Government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected not to permit the lethargic and corruption influenced working culture of the past. The government has to step in, rather than leaving everything in the hands of the private sector. The Delhi power failure has proved beyond any iota of doubt the frailty of “privatization”. The government should “de-privatize” power distribution in Delhi and pave the way for recovering valuable public assets from the hands of the avaricious private players. Citizens cannot be left to the mercy of the private business interests nor can citizens’ interests be sacrificed for the benefit of the private business. It is bad business to permit it to happen. It is worse economics to promote such flawed capitalism called liberalization. 90% of our present woes emanate from privatization of public utilities or silently killing all public infrastructure to vacate space for private operators to exploit the masses. Prime Minister Narendra Modi knows it better than any why the X-ray machines in government hospitals don’t work and why dozens of shop just outside the AIIMS or Safdarjang Hospital do a roaring business. The only justification of dumping the Congress Party this time and entrusting the executive responsibility to Narendra Modi was this deliberate dys-functioning of the previous and honest functioning by the latter. Instances like power crisis in Delhi will surface in hundreds gradually to discredit this government unless it takes drastic steps to stem the rot and act in the most demonstrating manner. After all it is corruption, which has been institutionalized in the past 10 years, which is threatened by the success of Narendra Modi. If crisis like Delhi power failure can equate him to the previous government, corruption wins and survives. Now it is for the government to weigh the ratio of socialist and capitalist form of government and chart out its course.
One thing needs to be noted: the people of India will punish anybody who tries to exploit them economically (through price rise/short supply/disruption of power supply etc) or rub salt into their wounds by shamelessly telling them that it is possible to have a wholesome meal for five rupees in Bombay/Mumbai or that anybody earning rupees 28 a day can survive comfortably. If the people can teach a harsh lesson to the Congress Party and the dynasty behind which it survives, they can repeat it for anybody else. It is time to deliver. No excuses!