Friday, 29 August 2008

Energy rationing is fair


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Fuel scarcity and power cuts have become a part of our lives. It affects our day to day schedule. We have to give up on many of the mindless luxuries that we indulged hitherto. We can no longer take a ride to the nearest chemist for buying obesity tablets. It is easy to argue that the Government should ensure adequate supply of fuel and power. Infact an actor turned politician in Tamil Nadu has told that you don’t require a power minister to tell that there is inadequate power supply. I know this person must have been playing to the gallery but then it is essential to remind ourselves of the famous Kennedy statement “Don’t ask what the country has done for you; ask what you have done for the country”.

Petrol companies are listed companies on the stock exchange and answerable to their shareholders. They can’t go on piling up losses in the face of high crude oil prices and not invoke the ire of investors. Similarly most of the electricity boards across the country have been restructured with loans from World Bank, etc. A commitment was made that energy subsidies would be eliminated but we have gone back on the same. Ensuring uninterrupted supply of power would mean buying from private parties at market rates and selling at subsidized rates. Finances of the most state energy boards are fragile, where will they go for funds?

Going back to the famous Kennedy statement, are we ready to do the following for the energy/fuel situation of the country:
Pay at market rates for these precious resources.
If we are unable to pay, accept gladly that rationing is a fair deal.
Try to look at alternatives wherever affordable i.e. those of us who can afford should go in for solar geysers/solar home lighting; walk distances less than 2 kilometers; use more public transport; try to implement the idea of car pooling wherever feasible.

The typical Indian mindset seems to suggest that Government is distinct from the citizens. Government derives it powers and limitations from its citizens especially when it comes to financial matters. We cannot infinitely be looking to the Government to dole out free lunches. Barrack Obama while accepting the Democratic nomination for Presidency spoke of “Individual Responsibility” and “Mutual Responsibility”. Terms which are totally inapplicable for India, it seems, given that we have a legion of petty minded leaders.

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