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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

dark days

text of the letter sent to the Times of India:

I refer to the report captioned "City has 3.5 dark days a year" in your columns yesterday (June 18th).

As compared to 86 hrs listed against Bangalore by you, the genset records maintained by our housing society indicates an aggregate of 243 hrs (equivalent of over 10 days) during the calender year 2006. In the first 4 months of the current year, it has already recorded 142 hrs, with April alone accounting for 61 hrs. With the monsoons playing truant, in addition to the incapacity of BESCOM to manage the job, over which it however still wants to cling on to its monopoly status, things can only get darker as the days progress.

The figure of 50 hrs listed by you against Mumbai possibly reflects the period when power was deliberately shut down due to the floods the city experienced last year. Otherwise, Mumbaikars are generally well placed on this count, reflected in the fact that the city is not much of a market, compared to Bangalore, for gensets, inverters, converters, batteries, emergency lamps, candles, match-sticks, and what have you. Similar is the situation with Ahmedabad, Surat, Kolkata, Greater Noida, etc. The essential difference between these cities and Bangalore is that whereas we have the government-owned BESCOM supplying us power, they are all served by companies in the private sector.

Need one elaborate more?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

party to the loot

text of the letter sent to the Indian Express:

I refer to the report captioned "Metro rail: Officials face the music" in your columns today.

Upto as recently as just some ten years back, we were totally at the mercy of monopoly government service providers like BSNL, Indian Airlines, Posts & Telegraph, Doordarshan, the cartelised banks and insurance companies. With the facilitation of entry of private players into these sectors, the scenarios transformed in real quick time benefiting everyone concerned, except a handful of racketeers.

In very much the same way, the public bus transport services can also get transformed, in a matter of months, if the state governments facilitate entry of organised sector players like TVS into the sector to compete with the present-day government monopoly players, viz BMTC and the SRTC's. What is required is a Praful Patel like approach on the part of the state transport minister. Such a development, alongwith a few policy measures disincentivising usage of personalised forms of transport, can mitigate the city traffic problems to a large extent. And, thereafter, if necessary, one can look at the METRO, this being a very costly option.

The politicians will naturally go for the costliest of options, since the mega projects involved mean mega kick-backs. But, when the NGO's, who so vociferously voice their opposition to the METRO, simultaneously refuse to support the entry of the private sector into the field, aren't they willy-nilly playing into the hands of the politicians, and thereby guilty of acquiescing in the loot?