January 15, 2001 Issue

  NDA Loses Majority
To gauge the mood of the nation at the dawn of the third millennium, India Today commissioned ORG-MARG to conduct an opinion poll, and forecast the possible composition of the House.


Peace Offensive
The Centre's strategy is to portray the Hurriyat Conference and Pakistan as hurdles in its quest for a political solution.


Black Out
Yet another major grid failure serves as a reminder of how deep-rooted the rot in India's power sector is.


Fifth Column
by Tavleen Singh

by Jairam Ramesh
Contagian Time Again


Right Angle
by Swapan Dasgupta
Clarifying Clarification


Politically Correct
by P. Chidambaram
And Justice in Time


Flip Side
by Dilip Bobb
The PM's Lament

Other stories
  The Nation  
  The Arts  

Wile Praise


Farm Resolve





Heart of Darkness

The karmic fatalism of a power breakdown

In the last days of the Soviet empire, when ordinary Muscovites discovered the virtues of street protest, a frequently heard slogan was: "Mother Russia, give us lights." This was a reference to the perennial shortage of cigarettes in the socialist dreamland. It was also a comment on the Soviet economy: all bluster but incapable of mass producing as low technology a commodity as cigarettes. On the second day of the millennium, Mother India may have heard similar complaints from citizens of Delhi and six other northern states. As the zonal power grid collapsed and India groped in the dark, as it has so often, the same set of convoluted excuses was offered-states drawing excess power, ill-maintained equipment, cascade tripping and so on. Those with long memories recalled that the power sector was among the first to be opened up to foreign investment. A decade has passed since; for India it's still darkness at dawn.

The economics-and politics-of power can scarcely be done justice to in this space. It would suffice to iterate three basic questions every thinking Indian, the sort of person who is forced into a candlelight dinner even when he doesn't desire one, is asking. First, why bother with the Lashkar-e-Toiba's threat to attack the prime minister's residence when the local electricity authority can render it powerless, literally, for a good half-hour? Second, if India's peak demand is 73,000 MW and generating capacity is over 1,00,000 MW, why are there power cuts at all? The usual suspects-65 per cent generation, 20 per cent pilferage-have been untamed simply too long. Third, regions like the eastern states and Maharashtra-at least officially-are power surplus. So why isn't the generating potential of producers there servicing the rest of the country? In theory India has a national grid; in practice it has a national joke. Maybe that's what they call black humour.

History in the Faking

Does the IHC believe in 'India's tradition of scepticism'?

Public discourse in India, it has often been lamented, prefers off the cuff rhetoric to intellectual argument. It is a disease even Nobel laureates are not immune from. On January 2, Amartya Sen, redoubtable economist and peripatetic philosopher, inaugurated the Indian History Congress (IHC) in Calcutta and emphasised "India's tradition of scepticism" and of "expression of hereticism and heterodoxy". He also attacked the political "manipulation" of history. Fair enough; but keeping Sen company were Jyoti Basu and Buddhadev Bhattacharya, former and current communist chief ministers of West Bengal. If there was an irony lurking somewhere, it must have been lost on the sombre listeners. That the gathering itself comprised an academic establishment virtually institutionalised by the late Nurul Hasan, Indira Gandhi's education minister, and dedicated to the career advancement of fellow travellers would have been too minor an irritant for Sen. Frankly, if the IHC is appreciative of and open to contrarianism, Michael Jackson is the Master of Trinity College.

By its every nature history is interpretative and subjective. A contest of ideas and a certain debate and engagement can only enrich the subject. These profundities are of course beyond controversy. What is not is the selective nature of state sponsorship of "schools" of history. A leftist clique dominated historical research, grants, sinecures, junkets and PhD theses-appraisal committees for half a century. Today it is getting its comeuppance. The gainers, like the losers, are a bunch of mediocre academics hankering after government privileges. It is an unedifying battle the truly enlightened would be wise to rise above. Whatever made Sen join it?



Writer's Residence
Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan, aka Mirza Ghalib lived here. The 250 sq yard in Ballimaran, an architecturally mutating cluster, has the facade of an upstart townhouse with spindly, post-1980s balusters and neo-Moorish brickwork from a prosperous factory in Haryana.

Looking Glass

Delhi: Festival

Chennai: Entertainment

Pune: Night Club

    Web Exclusives

As the Government brings in more people and mops more money in taxes, it must be seen to be rewarding those who come forth and pay up, writes India Today Associate Editor V. Shankar Aiyar in Au ContrAiyar.


The BJP in Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh is in the throes of a trying leadership crisis, giving the largely unchallenged ruling Congress more reasons to be smug. INDIA TODAY Special Correspondent Neeraj Mishra takes a look in Despatches.




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