If you believe in Hindu religious traditions, one should light an oil lamp in front of Deity of choice. Faithful followers of Christianity can light a candle. But switching off the electric lights all over India, is not supported by any tradition or religion. Infections and diseases flourish in darkness and light chases them away.

However, positive response to Modi’s call by lighting a lamp may cost nothing except a few minutes of devotion. But switching off all lights could divert the energies and precious time of lakhs of electricity engineers all over the nation and require closing of the power stations and restarting them within minutes to meet the sudden surge of the demand when bulbs are switched on.

A small amendment to the call can prove this event less problematic. That is to avoid the switching off the lights, which is any way not a positive sign, besides being not approved by Hindu tradition. Except popularity check-up and a spectacular satellite photograph, perhaps, for media, this could serve no purpose. At least PM should have chosen this occasion to educate the people and prescribe a purposeful activity to empower them to fight virus.

When each employee is expected to help the teams fighting the dreaded disease, it is unwise to create unnecessary activity for lakhs of engineers. Because of the switching off, the generation of electricity need to be reduced and if generation is obstructed as a result of sudden fall in consumption, the current gets obstructed in essentially required areas like hospital and administration or relief measures. It also expected to have troubles in restarting the closed thermal power generating stations. For these reasons also the PM should have given relaxation to certain
essential services including medical.

Power Minister is boasting of the capacity and strength of India’s power grid efficiency and declared that the lights-out may not cause more than 15 Giga Watt short fall in demand, which accounts to less than 4 per cent. On the other hand, the NTPC, the largest generator of power says it would initiate preventive steps to save transmission or generation units from tripping. This shows the power minister and Prime Minister are not mindful of the unnecessary troubles this crazy call can cause. Manageability of the power distribution could be possible, but why in this crisis, the essential
service provider should divert their efforts to something unconnected to relief of disease prevention?

Congress leader Shashi Tharur questioned the purpose about the sentiment of ‘9’, having announced it on Sriram Navami (9 th day of Chaitra month), at nine o clock, for about 9 minutes, giving call for this activity of batti bhujao, mobile jalao to be performed on fifth day of fourth month (5+4=9) at 9 pm for nine minutes. None knows whether this has any purpose, other than symbolic declaration of unity.

The government is expected to have deliberated with at least power sector officers before creating such a huge work on 5 th April. India’s baseload power demand if assessed to be 160 Gigawatts (160,000 megawatts MW), which is distributed across the nation by Power System Operation Corporation Ltd (POSOCO). For this 9-minute lights out exercise, there could be reduction of about 10,000-12,000 MW of power demand. Hence, the POSOCO needs to ramp down electricity supply accordingly during this time block and ramp up again once this 9-minute period is over and the baseload demand returns in full strength. Any missteps in handling this could possibly lead to a high voltage surge, tripping the lines, causing damage to the national grid and an extended power outage.

This is a purposeless ‘planned’ power shut down. Power industrial experts assessed that on 22 March, when during Janta Curfew, national power demand fell to 135 GW, i.e., down 26 GW from previous day’s demand of 161 GW. They could handle it successfully for a day, according to a report by Mint news magazine.

One saving feature that reduces the short fall of demand is PM asked only lights to be switched off, which means other consumption of electricity for TV, fridge, fans etc will continue. But what to do in a slot of 15 minutes within which the demand surges again after nine minutes. It is an unprecedented task that the power engineers are going to suffer. The national, state level and regional video conferences, meetings and deliberations with despatch centres are going since the PM’s announcement. The shortfall must be filled within nine minutes, if the people follow the PM’s instructions dutifully.

When the machinery is expected to be used at its optimum utility level to tackle the crisis of coronavirus, diverting the men and machinery to this futile activity would adversely impact the efficiency. Should we improve our efficiency or cause strain on resources?

A pan India survey based on feedback received from 266 collectors and IAS officers from 410 districts across 34 states revealed high insufficiency or inefficiency all over the nation. The survey conducted in three days by Centre says that we have only 16651 ventilators dedicated for Covid 19 patients, MP could arrange a little over 1000, and testing centres are not within the reach. In Dibrugarh of Arunachal Pradesh, there is only one testing centre which is 379 KM away. Many districts do not even have intensive care unit along with ventilators. While we have 22 lakh health workers, they have only 4.12 lakh Personally Protected Equipment (PPE). Masks constitute only 15 lakhs leaving shortage by 7 lakh plus. When PM announced that he would address people, they expected that some relief in terms of supply of equipment and increase in testing centres would be explained. Nothing of such constructive preparation was announced.

There are certain fundamental duties prescribed under Article 51A the Constitution which, we and the state are forgetting. They are:

 To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India
transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities;
 To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
 To develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
 To safeguard public property and to abjure violence;
 To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement;

Hope the reason and wisdom prevail before decision making.

( Disclaimer: The Author’s views are personal and does not reflect that of NewsMeter’s)

M Sridhar Acharyulu

Madabhushi Sridhar Acharyulu was the Central Information Commissioner (2013-18) of Union of India, who delivered thousands of landmark judgments on Right to Information. Earlier, Madabhushi Sridhar served as Professor and Registrar at NALSAR University, Hyderabad . With double post-graduate degrees (LLM & MCJ) Ph.D. and LL.D., Sridhar continues as a columnist on socio-political happenings and policies of the state. He has written and published 40 books on Law and Journalism in both Telugu and English, 100 plus research articles and thousands of newspaper articles. Sridhar anchored a live phone-in TV weekly program to answer doubts on land records in 60 episodes of a TV channel in Hyderabad.

One comment on "PM’s ‘Batti Bhujao’ is ashubh, troublesome"

  • My observations on the issue of spead of the virus in India:

    The basic issue is not who funded them or they are good or bad. The basic issue is when the world is facing the virus, why they sneaked in to villages [for example in Karimnagar District in TS] instead of going back to their respective countries or valunterily come under quarentine? They failed to do these that shows they have scant respect for people of India.

    The otherside is government failed to do its job at embassies around the world and immigration officials in Delhi/Indian Airports. [When I was in Maputo/Mozambique, Indians complaind against the Ambassidar to government of India. Government asked to enquire by a bilaterla programme Indian official in Maputo [Joint Secretary in Telecom] and my self with FAO/UN. We submitted our report; and immediately the ambassidor was thrown out and Tanzanian Ambassodor was asked to take charge]. Even after persons coming from Dubai faced the virus.

    In fact just before the virus, government brought out a citizenship bill and several states opposed it. Just at this movement violence errupted in Delhi. The government should have been more careful on the issue of Delhi meeting by Tablig’s. So, the virus spread in to India was basically because of the Tablighi’s Delhi meet and carelessness of government to stop such people visiting India and others from other virus infected countries.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *