Friday, April 01, 2011

Switch on!

‘Why the invention of steam engine is the worst thing that happened to the mankind?’ was the provoking question posed to us by one of our lecturers in the college. His argument was that man had time on his side and coal was a non-renewable energy source so which should be exploited and exhausted first? Though all of us were initially dumbfounded by the question, a lively and heated discussion settled the matter in favour of steam engine. I don’t remember how. What got struck in my mind was the logic behind the question which I could not completely disagree with.

This came to my mind because of this article in The Hindu as well as this in The Week. Post-Fukushima everyone’s wondering whether we are ready for Nuke plants. I cannot help but see the irony of it all. Our highly principled, technocrat PM fought tooth and nail to get the Nuke Bill passed in the Parliament. Perhaps he came to the conclusion that end justified the means and did whatever the Wiki cables have suggested the Congress did during those testing times in Mid 2008 to pass the acid test. There was something wrong about the way the trust vote went that year. I remember thinking well of the Left for having stood their ground on Nuke issue. I remember hoping for PM to become less intransigent. I remember feeling not surprised when the government survived the trust vote. I remember feeling that it was not right. I guess fatalism runs in our blood. It catches up with us. Now the PM is getting petitions from all corners signed by all and sundry to review the Nuke policy. And he has assured that he will. West Bengal ousted Tatas because all said and done they thought the project was anti-locals. You think people of Jaitapur are ready for Nuke plant? Oh, God save them!
Of course, there is huge gap in demand and supply situation of Power in the country. But should the government focus only on supply side and take no steps to tackle demand. Why should it assume and accept increase in demand as given? Why can’t the government take stringent steps to prevent misuse, abuse of power? Why do we need neon lights that burn all night in cities and now even in remote towns? When thousands of villages are yet to see electricity cables shouldn’t the Government take steps to encourage day-time matches or day-time inauguration ceremonies etc? These examples might seem silly at the outset but if you look at the larger picture it may not appear as silly as it did in the beginning. The government can devise hundreds of ways to reduce consumption if it really wants to. Tinkering with price policy will not be able to achieve much since money seems to be not an issue nowadays. There is a need to curb domestic consumption for industrial purpose or otherwise. But since we are now a full-blown capitalistic economy and not, what was the term.. ohh yeah -mixed economy, putting clamps on the consumers will become a crime. But Government would be wiser if it remembers Gandhi's words and stops pandering to everyman’s greed.
Tailpiece: Most ungracious and unkindliest remark and a hare -brained suggestion I heard with a wide grin and utter disbelief from one of my seniors : ‘ Japan with its history of earthquakes is not even fit for humans to live, leave alone for erecting nuclear reactors. It should be evacuated.’

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