Umred, a small colliery town near Nagpur in central India was in news a few months back.... and perhaps provides an insight into the dynamics of mass-scale social exclusion - and its implications - mentioned in the previous post.
...so here are Notes from Umred:
- "India does not have enough electricity for all of its 1.1 billion people, and so daily outages as long as 18 hours are imposed on smaller settlements so that megacities like Mumbai can enjoy a 24-hour supply.... The burden is carried by villages and small towns.
...last February, in this small, dusty town of 50,000 in central India, where goats and children scamper through the byways, the blackouts triggered a violent revolt. Thousands marched on the local government offices, some pelting stones, others setting police jeeps ablaze. When the police fired their guns to scatter the mob, at least two people were struck and killed.... a recent visit to Umred suggested that the uprising might also reflect new anxieties stewing in a nation where ambitions are trickling down much faster than the means to achieve them.
...Satellite television is beaming urban India's new cravings and anxieties into Umred's living rooms. Relatives who migrated to cities are returning home with tales of lucrative jobs and trendy nightclubs. The Internet has emboldened the young to hunt beyond the town for jobs, life partners and ideas....
"Electricity is essential to ambition," said Ravindra Misal, the 26-year-old owner of an English-language academy here, "because I need it to do my homework, I need it to listen to music if I am a dancer, I need it to listen to tapes of great speakers, I need it to surf the Internet... But I cannot, so people get angry. They have bigger expectations, but electricity is becoming a hurdle on their path."
....(the) heightened expectations are distilled in a new craving for schooling. Across India, there is a new insistence among the uneducated that their children receive educations and break poverty's hereditary chain.
But the blackouts were distracting their children from their evening studying. When the parents marched in February, a principal demand was that blackouts be suspended during the annual examinations that can make or break a child's career in India.
Sushrut Lanjewar, an 8-year-old with a Spider-Man T-shirt, is still learning his letters, but he has already reached a grown-up conclusion. He knows he must study his way out of Umred, and he intends to do so. He wants to be a botanist and discover a plant to thwart global warming.
But a mysterious force is obstructing him, he said.
Several nights a week, he said, electricity vanishes from Umred. The houses darken. The televisions sputter off. Lanjewar, a nephew of the sporting-goods seller, lights a candle to finish his homework.
But he loses his focus, he said, because of the flickering light and the motionless ceiling fan that fails to blow mosquitoes away.
"Are these people crazy who keep turning off the light?" he asked, not just angry but inquisitive. Why do grown-ups keep telling him to do his homework and then shut off the light?
He was told that 8-year-olds in Mumbai have 24-hour electricity.
His eyes bulged. He looked like a child stripped of Santa Claus fantasies. "If they can get the light," he asked, "how come we can't get it?"
Entering the hottest season, however, the crisis is so acute in Maharashtra that even Mumbai may face blackouts. They would be the first in decades, and Mumbai's Scotch-sipping elite is furious at the prospect of no air conditioning for 90 minutes a day.
In Umred, a 90-minute disruption would be a luxury. Its blackouts are typically eight to 12 hours a day.
"Why?" barked Abhay Lanjewar, the proprietor of a sporting-goods store in Umred. "They're humans in Bombay, but we're only animals here?"
Deeper down, his is not a rhetoric question...
Cross posted at: How the Other Half Lives