The World’s Biggest Blackout

During the week which just ended, India suffered the ignominy of the world’s biggest electrical blackout, when more than 650 million people went without power for nearly 2 days – that is 10% of the entire world’s population.

I remember that sometime in 2002 or 2003, when Singapore went without power for couple of hours, the Government of Singapore fined the electricity generating company a big amount (something like a million dollars), not just for the loss of power for couple of hours – more for damaging the reputation of the island city which has never seen a blackout and which always “works” for business.

There was no such concern in India – the thing that we heard twice over the media was a boast from the Power Minister that India was, in fact, better than even the U.S. which suffered longer power outages and could not fix the same easily. Here was India, bringing back power to the grid within a few hours – was it not a great thing ?

India often makes these official boasts, which are unnecessary, and irrelevant to solving the problem on hand. It did take more than 2 full days for the grid to come back to its original state. The blackout happened despite the Indian power grid having sophisticated circuit breakers. The reasons are yet to be deciphered and I am actually very surprised that the media has not followed through in finding out what exactly went wrong, who is to be blamed/sacked (heads rarely roll in Indian Government) and what the Government plans to do in terms of firm actions to avoid a recurrence.

India’s image did take a beating. How can big companies conduct their operations when electricity is not available ? The big side-effect is the big increase in the consumption of precious diesel fuel, which is used to run the massive diesel generators all around, causing pollution and creating noise. India must be the biggest consumer of diesel generator sets of all capacities in the world. Such big investment shows the lack of a dependable source of power and lack of trust on the government as such.

The situation requires immediate attention and fast recovery actions by the government and the electricity regulator. People are tired of seeing no heads rolling, no one willing to accept the blame, no fines being imposed on any one, and the worse of all – no one actually taking any responsibility for the occurrence of such a situation.

Times are changing fast in India, and the patience is wearing thin, government better take action to fix things. Business will go where there is stability of policy and power availability (!).

Image and the perception that things work efficiently are all too critical for the success of business. Further, individual consumers are not to be sniffed at either.


Vijay Srinivasan
4th August 2012


One thought on “The World’s Biggest Blackout

  1. Anurag

    Accountability is completely lacking in India’s Public Functionaries. The best part is that the Minister of Power gets ‘elevated’ to a more critical portfolio on the same day showing that the Government cares two hoots about the public sentiments.

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