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In the Dark

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In the Stone Age and for centuries afterwards, before electric lights, people generally depended on natural light. They got up early in the morning, before sunrise. They went to work and returned home before dusk.

Their activities were solely manual. To take baths and wash clothes they went to the river. They dried their clothes by hanging them in the open air. Firewood, collected from the woods, was used to light fires, which helped them in cooking and also provided warmth. Thus their day was fully occupied and the night gave them relaxation. Their wants were few as they were unaware of any other possibilities. They led a satisfied life and were hale and healthy by doing physical work.

The people of Tamil Nadu in southern India are leading a Stone Age life in the 21st century, but with a marked difference. Stone Age man had not expereinced the benefits of electricity. But the Tamils have got used to the luxury of the magical power of this marvellous invention. Electrical power has enslaved them. They abandoned their age-old practice of pounding, grinding, and walking. Dough for their breakfast is ground mechanically. The “masala” used for their broth and dishes is done the same way. Air conditioners have become absolute necessities.

The latest developments – facsimile machines, computers, mobile phones, iPads, iPhones and the like all demand electricity in their own way and use it according to their own limitations. Basic lighting is essential for reading and writing, and indispensable especially to children who have to study. Recreational devices like televisions, radios, and video players rely on electric power. The people have to forsake their routine and pleasure unwittingly.

Yet the government has thrown towels over the generation of electricity. Thermal projects which were providing electricity decades back have been abandoned for no reason at all. The hydroelectric power generated is insufficient to fulfill the demand. Wind power has also not been tapped to the fullest. As a result, free electricity extended to the farmers and the poor has proved suicidal, a gimmick adopted by the government to win over the masses.

Every day people are subjected to power cuts for at least four hours. The electricity department seems to switch the power on and off according to their fancy.

The hardship faced by the people is inexplicable. Food production is half-finished when the power goes off. Children are busy preparing for their exams, and at the most crucial moment the power is switched off.

The plight of the industrial sector is even harder than the inconvenience suffered by households. While the manufacturing process is in full swing, the department turns off the supply which unexpectedly stops the running of machines in full swing. Production is affected. Wear and tear on the machinery is immense, quality is lost, and industries incur heavy losses in production and finance.

It is in a way going back to the Stone Age, and not a voluntary retreat but a forced one. The Tamils take it in stride and have learnt to bear with these incongruous difficulties. Electricity fees are very high, but the people pay them without any hard feelings. This triggers suspicion about the attitude of the Tamil race. Are they so tolerant? Are they so mature? Are they so unconcerned? Questions crowd the mind but all remain as unsolved equations.

Yet people in Tamil Nadu keep a smiling face and vote for those who throw freebies but grab the fundamentals for themselves. They cheerfully pay a high price for nothing. Why so? cries the soul desperately. I am unable to answer. I am in the dark.

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