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Dreaming of Sheila

For every hour there is no power we should be entitled to a pay out, to compensate for the suffering we’re put through, writes Karan Thapar.

india Updated: Jun 26, 2010 23:54 IST
Karan Thapar
Karan Thapar
Hindustan Times

Do you know what I hate most about this horrible heat? It’s the power cuts. You can bear the stifling temperatures in Kuwait, Jeddah or Dubai because the lights don’t fail. At least indoors you can be cool. Alas, that’s not the case in Delhi. Here, as the heat gets worse, power cuts proliferate and prolong. The result: the impact of the blistering temperatures is considerably enhanced. What God or nature can’t manage on their own the bijliwallahs happily do for them.

Many nights I’ve lain in bed sweating and gasping because the lights have gone off. My first response is to throw the windows open in the hope a cool breeze might blow through but, instead, hot air, heaving with dust, fills the room. Then, as the minutes stretch to hours and you wonder if the electricity will ever return, you find yourself swimming in a pool of our own sweet sticky sweat.

Frustration turns to rage but that only makes you feel hotter and sweatier. In these conditions even trying to calm yourself is an effort. It only makes you sweat! At last, exhausted and dis-spirited, you fall into fitful sleep.

On such nights I’ve liberally cursed the BSES Delhi, the Dikshit government, the Manmohan Singh administration, Indian politicians, our development policies — what a misnomer! — and anyone and everyone else. Then I remember the lights don’t fail at the PM’s or the CM’s. In fact most MPs don’t experience power cuts. They either have a special supply of electricity or we — that’s you and I — suffer their share of power cuts. And this only makes my blood boil and I end up sweating even more.

Well, now I have a solution and I want to bounce it off you. If you agree you might consider pushing it as well.

I start from the position that power is a facility we pay for. Our relationship with the supply company is akin to a contract. That means we pay for a constant flow of electricity, at an agreed and unfluctuating voltage level, whenever we need it and for as long as we wish to have it. In return, we accept to pay the charge as fixed by the supply company and each time its enhanced we have no option but to pay more.

This contractual relationship imposes implicit obligations on both sides. We, as users, must pay promptly and fully. If we don’t, we’re penalised: fines are levied and, eventually, the supply of electricity can be terminated. But there are obligations on the supplier too. Paramount is that the supply of electricity must be constant and readily available, particularly when adverse conditions most require it.

So what should happen when this is not the case? Simple. We, the purchasing party — that’s you and I —should get compensation. For every hour there is no power we should be entitled to a pay out, to compensate for the suffering we’re put through. Second, the quantum of such compensation should sharply increase with each additional hour of power cut. So if it’s X for the first hour, it should be X + 1 for the next, X + 2 for the third and so on.

I’m confident that if this were implemented, power cuts would cease. Why? Because if power companies were made to pay for power cuts they’d make sure there were none. Then we wouldn’t need to be VIPs to sleep comfortably. At least in our dreams, we could pretend to be Sheila Dikshit or Manmohan Singh!

The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Jun 26, 2010 23:39 IST