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Rediff.com  » Business » Power sector: This bite is worse than the bark

Power sector: This bite is worse than the bark

March 17, 2007 13:30 IST

The Indian power sector is plagued by problems -- implicit subsidies; rampant over-staffing; weird accounting standards; fuel-chain sourcing; poor transmission; mega policy issues. Above all, it is crippled by theft. People steal power right, left, and centre. Some people simply don't pay or exploit the "price arbitrage" by bribing employees.

"Hooking" is an endemic crime -- if you live in India, you've used "hooked" power. That, for the uninitiated, involves dropping a line with a fishhook onto a power cable and setting up a local distribution system. It is not quite as dangerous as taking on a quick bowler and taking the ball off your eyebrows.

But it does result in accidental deaths. Quite a few of those killed are kids. Usually children from a poor socio-economic background, which means that their playgrounds and hangouts are infested with serial killers, open manholes and dodgy power lines. Every year, hookers and innocent bystanders end up being mortality statistics.

It is a sad situation. It doesn't result, however, in T&D networks being burned down and those responsible for the deaths being taken off in cages and slaughtered by either having their skulls bashed in with bricks or their throats cut. At best, they get embroiled in interminable court cases.

This is because people recognise that an attempt at mass extermination will be counter-productive. It will not solve the power theft problem. It is not an optimal or even sub-optimal solution.

Every year, hundreds of people die due to cattle over-running the streets. Once in a while, the odd bull goes off his rocker with lust or rage and mows people down. More often, cattle act as mobile invisible roadblocks at night and cause fatal accidents. However, the mass extermination of cattle isn't suggested. Pinjrapoles are built instead. That's because cattle are sacred. Or is that cattle are sacred because people recognise that mass-extermination of cows would be a bad thing? Is the tail wagging the dog?

Dogs, on the other hand, are not sacred. In every human culture except that of the Australian Aborigine, dogs have had a symbiotic relationship with human beings. Wolves and wild dog species were tamed in pre-history. Dogs can, in fact, be classified as the first intelligent tools that human beings learnt to use.

But while even cultures that consider dogs unclean acknowledge their usefulness, they aren't sacred in any culture. "Sacred dog" sounds like an oxymoron though it's a lot less incongruous than "sacred scarab". Would you rather worship a dog or a beetle?

The problem is, dogs are unsuitable for worship. All pups have a streak of the ridiculous. They are capable of a deep and unconditional love that makes it impossible to think of them as deities. They are unlike cats, which are born with an innate sense of dignity. It is easier in some respects to worship an inanimate spanner, an abstraction personified on Viswakarma Puja, than an animal, which is happy slobbering, wriggling its butt and wiping eye-grunge off on your feet.

Of course, dogs can be dangerous. They're carnivores with big teeth. They hunt in packs. That's part of the utility package. An entire range of suppressed assault weapons -- starting with the Israeli 5.56 Galils with specially-ported subsonic muzzle speeds -- were designed to silently dispose of dogs during battles and covert operations. Security ops, drugs-busts, IED detection, blind assistance, mine-detecting would be inconceivable without the help of the dog. The global woollen textile industry would have to reformat its operational model without the sheepdogs out at the operational edge.

It's important for humans to maintain a symbiotic relationship with dogs. Just in order to make any claims to higher leanings. It's counter-productive to slaughter innocent animals because of two deaths. Cull the ones you must, but do it humanely. Dog isn't God spelled backwards but that doesn't mean that the species deserves to be targeted for genocide. The soul of Bangalore has been scarred forever by what happened this month. And we've lost the right to claim that we are an ancient civilisation with a dharma of Ahimsa.

Devangshu Datta
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