Power black-out greets delegates to 'Petrotech-2001'

Vol 4, PW 24 (17 Jan 01) People & Policy

Worse publicity on the pitiful state of India's energy sector you couldn't have asked for.

On 9th January, midway through the speech of oil minister Ram Naik, inaugurating 'Petrotech-2001', a landmark bi-annual oil and gas trade show in Delhi, the lights went out, plunging the 'Vighyan Bhavan' conference hall and its 2,000 or more Indian and foreign delegates into complete darkness. For 30 seconds, embaressed silence - so dark you couldn't see the person sitting next to you.

When the lights returned, a chastened Naik resumed his speech. A minute later, darkness engulfed the auditorium once more, before the lights returned.

When they failed for a third time in five minutes, panic spread among conference organisers. Understandably so.

Power cuts in this part of Delhi - within the cash-rich 'New Delhi Municipal Corporation' and home of the powerful - are rare indeed. More widespread are power cuts in parts of Delhi run by the cash-starved 'Municipal Corporation of Delhi', inhabited by the rest of us.

Naik used the power cut to promote his home city. "This wouldn't happen if we were in Mumbai," he said, to ripples oflaughter, "But in North India, it is quite common." What did he mean Simply this: in Mumbai transmission and distribution is in private hands.

In Delhi it's run by the 'Delhi Vidyut Board', which is government controlled.