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In Tamil Nadu, the chief minister has power, the people don't

By A Ganesh Nadar
September 24, 2012 14:15 IST
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As Tamil Nadu reels under power cuts, A Ganesh Nadar wonders: Is the crisis being manipulated?

When my friends in Bihar told me that they have up to 18 hour-power cuts I had laughed at them. But I was shocked when I found villages in Bihar which have no power even 65 years after Independence. But now, the shoe is on the other foot as Tamil Nadu goes the Bihar way.

Chief Minister Jayalalitha is the most powerful person in the state as she goes from her airconditioned home to her airconditioned office in her airconditioned car. In the assembly, she is the only speaker irrespective of who asks whatever question to whichever minister.

On All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam posters she is the only person visible from her party – the rest are the immortal former chief ministers MGR and Annadurai. Her people have been warned not to print posters with anyone else's pictures except hers. 

Now let's get back to rural Tamil Nadu where I live. This is the number of hours we had power in the day on Friday:

6 am to 6 30 am.

Noon to 2 pm.

5 pm to 7pm. 

On Thursday night, we had power every alternate hour. So, in the day and at night, the electricity stays for roughly the same time -- four and a half hours each. That makes it 15-hour power cuts.

The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board is technically divided into three departments -- generation, transmission and the third for distribution. In the last 50 years, they have an accumulated loss of Rs 50,000 crore.

So when you go to the huge building in Chennai which houses its head office, you will see three boards -- but enquiries with senior officials reveal that they are only boards, they have not divided anything and nor are they going to be. Who wants to be accountable, after all?

My taxi driver alleges that that they are purposely cutting the power so that people will begin to hate the anti-nuclear protestors in Kudankulam. We reach Udangudi. In the tea shop opposite the bus stand, two farmers are chatting:

 "I am going to lead a procession to Kudankulam in support of the atomic plant. My children cannot sleep at night. I cannot water my paddy or coconut trees. I am going to get 1,000 people, will you join me?" asks the first farmer.

The second farmer replies, "I will, but we will need lots of money which the anti-nuclear people have and we don't."

Let me repeat the conversation I had with the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board officials in my village on Friday morning. 
Me: Hello saar, when is the power supposed to be back?

Official: Kurumbur electricity board? I don't know, they told me to switch off from Arumuganeri.

I call the Arumuganeri substation.

Me: Hello madam, when will the power come?

Official: I don't know, Madurai asked us to shut down the power.

 Me: Madam please give me the Madurai number

Official: There is no landline. We speak on the intercom. 

Me: But Saar, when will the power come?

JE: I don't know. Maduria will let us know.

Me: Please give me Madurai number

JE: If I do that they will be upset.

Me: Does that matter? At the moment consumers are upset. Why don't you give me the superintending engineer, Tuticorin's number?

JE: I don't have it on me, I am on the way to the office, will call you from there. 

This conversation happened at 8 am, now its 6 pm. Needless to tell you, he never called and we continued without power for 9 hours. 

Jayalalitha did not support the bandh against the rise of diesel price. She doesn't bother about power cuts. She doesn't pay for her diesel, her house is never without power. But me, I am a hapless citizen. 

My knowledgeable cabbie added, "You know the companies that make invertors and generators, they have paid crores in bribes to to make the state powerless". I sigh in reply.

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