When we hear that computerization without electricity has been undertaken in some part of the world, we will normally think some innovation has been made possible there. Really it is one of the many recent follies of Kerala people. Even though many well educated and talented Keralites have migrated to many countries and are engaged there in prestigious firms in the computer hardware and software industry, their local rulers and political leaders are clay heads, still in the bullock cart age.
Plenty of mountains, rivers, dams and rains, but begging for electricity all over India.
Kerala produces enough electricity to light her homes, run her industries and render other basic services but not enough to light the millions and millions of display boards, dazzling shop displays and opulent building and street illuminations. What electricity Kerala produces in its many hydro-electric projects is just enough to meet the basic essentials. This means, the normal domestic, social and industrial life can be continued without depending on electricity purchased from outside. If someone says that Kerala has a shortage of electricity, anyone who has seen the plentiness of rivers and water bodies in Kerala and the number of dams that have been built across them through the years will wonder how this shortage can happen and who is to be held responsible for this foolish situation. The fact is, neither the government nor the Kerala State Electricity Board which does the production and distribution of electricity throughout the state, have done anything sensible to ensure conservation of electricity, without which Kerala will plunge into total darkness and stillness of industries for the next 20 years.
Selling imported electricity and pocketing the profits is far more lucrative a state business than producing from water.
After allowing the foolish spending electricity for unnecessary illuminations by the state establishments, private citizens and other organizations, and after ensuring that power is short and people are shouting, electricity is bought and brought from as far regions as Himachal Pradesh and from private sector, paying exorbitant price as a result of which electricity charges in the state soars. The ordinary citizens have no role in bringing about this havoc because the electricity needed for their houses, shops and industries is already produced from their rivers. And they consume much less electricity. They light only one or two lights in their homes and cannot afford air-conditioning. The burden of the higher cost of electricity purchased from the outside should have been shouldered by those who squander electricity by lighting a hundred lights in their homes and operating multi air-conditioners day and night and those who allowed it without imposing restrictions. You walk along the main city streets of Trivandrum, Trichur, Cochin and Calicut at night and you can see who are spending electricity opulently. It is they to whom the cost of imported electricity should have been charged solely. An ordinary shop needs five or six bulbs to run it but not thousands and thousands as we see on these thoroughfare sides. An electricity-short Kerala cannot afford it. If they want that much electricity for their special needs, they can import it at their cost but shall not eat into Kerala’s reserves. Just watch the State Ministers’ buildings and the mansions of top level bureaucrats, elected people’s representatives and senior politicians in Trivandrum at night and you will see who squanders electricity as they please at people’s expense. The power they burn are not paid for by them but by the government and the burden finally falls on the shoulders of the poor people.
Adamantly insisting on computerization after visiting foreign countries where electricity never fails.
Before imported electricity arrived in Kerala, there was sufficient strength and voltage to the current but now due to loss during transmission, power is lost considerably. Fans won’t move, fridges won’t work and computers won’t function. The people of Kerala loose millions and millions of rupees due to the burning out of such instruments. There are countries in this world where electricity never fails and voltage never fluctuates. Such countries have turned to computerization of government departments. Some government minister who went to some such countries for treatment of some unspeakable disease saw this and wondered, and when he returned to Kerala adamantly began insisting that the government here also should be completely computerized. Learned Administrative Service Officers and Power Engineers of the state may have tried to teach him the effects of a possible administrative paralysis that would result from his act as the state had already begun to show proof of moving fast towards load shedding, power cuts, brown outs and total black outs, but within the hierarchical power structure in administration they might not have been bold enough and successful to raise them as objections. But that fool won’t listen. What those officers did not know about then was the millions that were coming the way of that politician as commissions from the computer industry.
Never thought about removing silt from reservoirs during the past 40 years; now complaining dams have no capacity.
Kerala is a region of hills and mountains and rivers. All rivers reach the sea before they run even a hundred miles. Due to the proximity to mountains the dams constructed across these rivers are filled with soil, silt, sand and debris in a very short time. With the rain of two or three days the dams are filled and overflowing but two or three weeks later the authorities tell people that there is not enough water in the dams to make electricity. During the past twenty five years there has not been a single instance of silt removal from a single dam in Kerala. Deepening the catchment areas of dams ensuring maximum catchment of water, making bare minimum electricity for the day to day needs or producing maximum electricity to be sold and bought back in needy times: that is what sensible governments and bureaucracies would do. But the Kerala State Electricity Board sat on its ass for a quarter of a century, and waking up now, tells that Kerala is short of electricity. The chairmen and the technical committee members of the board were being paid millions as salaries for foreseeing things and situations in advance and taking precautionary steps. Their failure in fulfilling their duties warrants immediate dismissal but being part of a state wide commission racket they are allowed to continue and bring more money to their godfathers. When generators in power stations blow away due to poor maintenance, they sit on the thing for years without resolving to repair them and start new files to buy electricity from the outside.
Building small dams called Sediment Retention Structures many miles upriver is the method adopted the world over for retaining the water storage capacity of reservoirs.
Small silt trap dams can be built on the streams feeding a large reservoir, to settle out silt and thus reduce the rate at which the main reservoir silts up. The dam and electricity authorities in Kerala during the past decades totally neglected this task of cleaning the reservoirs and now there is only a small amount of water contained in the dams. Now no reservoir in Kerala serves the practical purposes. Constructing small dams called Sediment Retention Structures many miles upriver is the common and wise method adopted the world over for retaining the water storage capacity of reservoirs. Every electricity production engineer and organization in the world knows this. It is common knowledge. Dam bed coating consists of mud and sand mainly. Also there would be remains of whatever got into the river flow, including plastic bottles and even vehicles. Measuring the depth of water after siltation is something to be done on a regular basis. Neither measuring water depth after siltation, building of sediment retention structures nor removal of mud and sand from reservoir bottoms has been done in Kerala for the past fifty years. Mining river sand for construction works is recently banned and restricted in Kerala, resulting in stillness in home building. Workers engaged in this field are now jobless. Removal of river sand from dams would have not only eased this explodable situation but would also have recovered the storage capacity of dams. Senior administrators in the state are in constant fear of when people will begin to ask the most dreaded question of why they are not cleaning the dams. Not one person in Kerala administration is interested in this matter. They are only interested in purchasing electricity from outside and selling it at far higher rates, pocketing huge amounts as commissions in the process. Every sensible person in the state knows that the future of electricity is dark in Kerala for the next twenty five years. Tapping solar power for electricity will need thousands and thousands of acres of land which Kerala cannot afford. Building nuclear reactors, the people of this small state will not permit. Restoring the storage capacity of dams the fools in the administration won’t do. That is why it is here alleged that total computerization of government departments in Kerala is a farce and folly, aimed just at securing commissions from purchases.
‘Our computers are down, there is no electricity; we do not know which year they will be up again.’
There are countries in this world where electricity never fails, voltage never fluctuates and even if electricity fails it would be for two or three seconds. Even if voltage fluctuates there, it would be by a maximum of two or three volts. Some great political figure head that went to those countries for treatment of some unspeakable disease saw the computerization there, wondered, and on return insisted that every government department should be fully computerized in Kerala and everything go online. No ruler was sensible enough to point out to him that in such electricity-short states like Kerala it would lead to administrative paralysis and eventually make people’s life miserable. Now when people go to some government office for a birth certificate they are told that the system is down and that they don’t know when the certificates could be issued. The good and reliable old manual system was deemlessly dismantled and the staff deployed elsewhere or dismissed; therefore the certificates cannot be handwritten and issued as before.
We will think there is someone there to attend. Actually there is no one there. E-governance is a farce.
Factual evidence for the fallacy of a government going online can be examined here by an example. Citizens can submit their complaints and grievances to the government of Kerala by online. As a test case, a complaint on specific easement violations, i.e. destruction of ancient homes in Kerala through rogue bulldozer activity by gangsters, was submitted online on 12th November 2011 to the following online addresses advertised by the government in their website.
1. The Joint Secretary, Chief Minister’s Grievance Redressal Cell, Government Secretariate, Trivandrum-1. firstname.lastname@example.org 2.Minister forPanchayats. email@example.com 3. Minister for Revenue. firstname.lastname@example.org 4. TheDistrictCollector,Trivandrum.email@example.com.
Even after months they were never acknowledged which even a poorly maintained, single man website will do. The addresses are here. They are government and public anyway and anyone can try. This is exactly what happens in the thousands and thousands of complaints submitted online to government each day. We will think that there is some one there to attend. Actually there is no one there. E-governance is a farce. The only aim of government computerization is pocketing the huge profits from computerization. Every electronics firm gives commissions when products and services are sold, irrespective of whether it is a government firm or non-government firm at the receiving end, and even senior union cabinet ministers in India are undergoing prison terms for accepting commissions. Therefore there is no use denying the ultimate aim of obtaining commissions.
‘Your ATM money went down the drain due to some computer glitch, it often happens when voltage drips; we cannot do anything.’
The governments had a very efficient treasury system which the private banks and the nationalized banks envied. Because treasuries do not have share owners but banks do, government’s money payment was de-linked from treasuries and shifted to banks, ordered by greedy politicians who themselves or whose dependents had shares and interests in those banks. One political party while in administration demanded that when this scheme is implemented, one particular bank shall write-off their loan of 100 Crore rupees they availed for starting a television channel. Banks would get millions of new accounts anyway without paying commissions and huge amounts will remain with them as unwithdrawn balances. Then why shan’t they pay and please political parties for taking the decision for payment of salaries through banks? But then what are treasuries for? Then treasuries and banks began to get computerized and payments to people began to be made through A.T.M. Counters. Now payment of salaries also is going online. There is no electricity and therefore no ATMs working. Voltage fluctuations also still the ATMs. One day when you go to draw money from the ATM or the bank it will be informed that ‘your money went down the drain due to a computer glitch; it sometimes happens when voltage drips, we cannot do anything’. We will think that bureaucrats and politicians in the administration were not brain-sharp enough to see these things in advance. They did see everything in advance but simply could not resist the temptation for securing commissions from the purchase of thousands and thousands of computers for every government office, making every office going online, and the future income from maintaining, servicing and replacing these systems. One needn’t think there was any intension of improving the efficacy of the administration in the state behind this decision and motivation for computerizing everything governmental. The horrible news of bribery and corruption printed everyday in newspapers in India reveals the real motivation. They will sell even their mothers if the right commission is got.
The last typewriter factory in the world, owned by Godrej India, was closed in 2011. So purchase available typewriters in advance at whatever price they come by.
This article which was first written on the 24th of October 2011 was auto saved by computer six times before it was even five paragraphs long. It was at a place one kilometer from Trivandrum District Administration and three kilometers from Kerala Government Secretariate. They still boast a fully computerized government! Just as the good old manual typewriters were thrown away when computers came along and shamelessly called back into service when electricity began to frequently fail, the good old scribes and their quill pens would again be needed soon. But remember, in the wake of the computer wave, not being able to sell one single typewriter manufactured by them, the last typewriter factory in the world owned by Messers. Godrej India Private Limited was closed in the year 2011. So take the advice and purchase available typewriters in advance at whatever prices they come by.
First reported on 25 October 2011