World’s largest blackout story is on front pages of Times of India and Washington Post. Two days ago the North Indian power grid collapsed affecting seven north-central states including Delhi. Yesterday again, Northern grid collapsed along with Eastern and North-Eastern. This time it affected 21 states and Union territories, an estimated 600 million people.
For me, a larger story has to do with the fact that I was almost entirely unaffected by it. What did I experience? At night when the electricity went off, my air conditioner gave out but shortly the generator in my apartment building was switched on by the guard and I continued to sleep with the help of the fan. When I came to the NCAER office in the morning, backup generator was operating all lights, computers and servers with only the air conditioners being off. Delhi metro had stopped but I was driving any way. Traffic was snarled due to missing traffic lights but had I lived farther than 2 km from office, I would probably have been driven by a driver. By noon, the electricity was back in Delhi while many other states were still dark.
This minor inconvenience is in stark contrast to the frustration imposed by traffic, darkness and heat on 90% of my fellow sufferers in north India. In some ways this reflects the reality of modern India. Lack of infrastructure and poor management afflicts everyone equally, the rich have a way of dealing with these public problems privately. The so called VIP areas of Delhi have abundant water and electricity, in other parts, residents must wake up at 6 am to fill their water buckets during the hour or two of water supply.
When elites are able to isolate themselves from the infrastructure problems facing the society at large, their incentives to improve shared services decline. Perhaps it would be a good idea to ban power generators from ministerial bunglows!