An intense summer 2012, followed by nearly failed monsoon and an economy on its downslide, further compounded by an utterly powerless India for two days, defines a nearly economically crippled India.
Tuesday was the worst day in independent India when hundreds of millions of people across India were left stranded in waiting trains or on platforms when electricity failure hit communication, factories, and nearly all offices and plunged vital services including hospitals in darkness as the grids collapsed for the second time in two days.
Hundreds of miners stranded under deep coal shafts in the state of west Bengal were in no better position than thousands of patients on vital support systems in hospitals.
The first failure impacted nearly half of India’s population of 1.2 billion in eight states, while the second crippled some more states when eastern grid in addition to the northern collapsed compounding the woes of the central government seen by the opposition in Parliament as the most corrupt government in Independent India.
The helpless chairman of the state-run Power Grid Corporation could barely appear more dumb as he admitted “Even before we could figure out the reason for yesterday's failure, we had more grid failures today.”
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a world class economist himself, had promised to fast-track stalled power and infrastructure projects as well as introduce free market reforms to inject vitality into India's flagging economy. However, his promises remained buried under tons of bureaucratic files.
Although power was restored in the capital New Delhi by nightfall and much of the northern India, the rural Uttar Pradesh remained in dark. Many Indians withstood the cuts but suffered the humiliation inherent in the hurt pride of the second most populous nation on the planet aspiring to emerge as a major global force.
Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, a state that enjoys surplus power, ridiculed the party in power at the center: “With poor economic management UPA has emptied the pockets of common man; kept stomachs hungry with inflation & today pushed them into darkness,” he said on his Twitter account.
Once power was restored, the central government added insult to the injury by elevating Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to a more powerful cabinet berth as the Home Minister of India, who had blamed the power failure on some of the states drawing more power than their share from the over burdened grid.
The power failure forced India to buy extra power from the tiny neighboring Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, an Indian protectorate.
According to N. Bhanumurthy, a senior economist at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, “This is going to have a substantial adverse impact on the overall economic activity.”
Not surprisingly, central bank cut its economic growth outlook for the fiscal year that ends in March to 6.5 percent, from the 7.3 percent assumption made in April. In retrospect S&P’s down grade of India’s rating from stable to negative is prophetic. India’s rating of BBB is the lowest among BRIC countries and is the only BRIC nation with negative S&P rating. IMF’s estimate of India’s growth at 6.9 percent for 2012 now appears rather ambitious.
According to Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia the blackout could have been possibly caused by coal shortage and problems on the grid and compounded by a weak monsoon and lowered hydroelectricity generation, with demand for electricity running high amid high summer temperature.
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