The breakdown in power supply in the north over two days was terrible. But does it warrant the sort of media hysteria we have seen? I am not conversant with the technical aspects of the situation. But, yes, if technology can spot and cut off excessive demands on the grid from any state, certainly we should go for it. And I take EAS Sarma's point in today's TOI article that we should be investing in maintenance of existing facilities and not just in additions to capacity. These points apart, are there indeed "lessons" to be drawn from the episode, as the media has been making out? I am not at all sure.
Does the power breakdown say anything about our economic growth prospects, as Ramachandra Guha seems to suggest in the FT? Not at all. Is it anybody's contention that if you wish to be seen as a credible economic power, you should not be having breakdowns at all? Well, as the new minister of power has pointed out, the US has had a power breakdown a few years ago and it took longer to restore supply. And don't forget the blackout in New York city a few decades ago and the riots that followed. Are to conclude this renders Sushil Kumar Shinde unsuitable for the Home ministry or for the power ministry itself? Do we judge a minister on the basis of a single episode or do we look at his broader record? Just to clarify, I hold no brief for Mr Shinde either as Home minister or Power minister, I am just posing questions that would apply to any minister.
These kinds of disruptions cause enormous inconvenience and suffering to people and we should do our best to avoid them. But to regard these as proof of national incompetence or a reflection on our future prospects is, to put it mildly, to be getting carried away. The lesson, if any, is one that the media needs to reflect on: every murder does not become a national crisis, every report on corruption does not mean scams are the norm, and every ministerial lapse does not mean the political system has failed.
Incidentally, I have become an ardent fan of Doordarshan news in recent months. You get the news of the day, national and international, without any varnish, and with very few commercial interruptions, and news time is not the usual suspects bashing each other in some discussion on current affairs. The current affairs discussion has a separate slot, and the one in Hindi at 7:30 pm is of pretty high quality, with a whole range of uncommon faces presenting their views- and doing a great job too. Ditto for the discussions on Lok Sabha TV and Rajya Sabha TV.
Try the national channels sometime, you will find these a refreshing change.