Energy inefficiency during Onam celebrations Tuesday, Sep 9 2008 

Kerala Secretariat illuminated for Onam festival.

Kerala Secretariat illuminated for Onam festival.

As the Power Minister A. K Balan is touring Austria, Denmark and Germany to study about demand side management, Kerala government is practicing inefficiency back home.

Dozens of diesel/kerosene generators will churn out green house gases and generate costly electricity to power the illumination of the city for the Onam festival. As the State is facing worsening power cut, no electricity will be provided from the State grid. In the past, the practice was to do away with illumination during the festival.

Trivandrum City Corporation building illuminated for Onam

Trivandrum City Corporation building illuminated for Onam

However, business interests have prevailed and they have even promised sponsor the illumination. No, surprise because of the quantum of business brought in by Onam is only growing year after year.

If the State Electricity Board wanted, it could have routed more efficiently produced thermal power from other States for the businesses (which it is already doing for the industries). But the Board and government probably thought that it would be difficult to convince the public of the logic when the people are facing load shedding.

The power cut and load shedding in the State are the result of both the failure of monsoon and mismanagement. Though the reservoir of the Sabarigiri project is now nearly full, the Government is unable to use it as only two of the six generators of the 300 MW is functional. The powerhouse is under renovation and the work, which was to be completed in 2007, is nowhere near completion. Water is going waste elsewhere as generators are under maintenance.

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No rice for Onam festival Wednesday, Aug 27 2008 

FCI godown in Kerala

FCI godown in Kerala

It is going to be a political fight between Kerala and the Centre (Central government) for rice. The Centre has drastically cut rice quotas to the State for public distribution. It soon turned into a political fight with the Union Minister for Agriculture and Civil Supplies Sharad Pawar taking umbrage for the absence of representatives of his party in the all-party delegation from Kerala that approached him for more rice. Though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was initially sympathetic, the equations have now changed with the Left parties withdrawing support to his government.

Politics apart, let us examine the pros and cons of the decision of the Centre to cut quotas. Kerala has not been drawing the allocated quotas for the above poverty line cardholders for years as the APL cardholders had mostly stopped getting their supplies from the public distribution system (ration shops). With increase in price of rice, some have returned to the ration shops. However, current demand is not entirely based on demand from the cardholders. Many ration dealers sell rice in the black market where it fetches higher prices.  With increase in price of rice, black market deals have become more lucrative. By demanding large allocations, Kerala government is actually catering to those who divert ration articles. However, it is to be accepted that higher availability of rice whether in the PDS, open market or black market would have the effect of holding the price line.

The Centre had a good reason in limiting allotments when the buffer stocks were running thin. However, the situation has now changed with better procurement this year. The FCI godowns are now flush with grains. The Central government is even planning to auction off rice. So, there is little justification for denying reasonable quotas to the State. After all, statutory procurement of grains from the producers is noted intended for making profits. It should be distributed through the public distribution system itself. As Kerala is a food deficit State, it request for more rice merits consideration, if adequate steps have been taken to prevent its diversion. The special allocation given to the State (10000 tonnes of rice) is inadequate considering the cuts in regular quotas.

Government should not be giving alms Wednesday, Jul 30 2008 

The Kerala Government will be providing free Onam kits to about 20 lakh families living below the poverty line during the coming festival season. The total expenditure for this would be Rs. 10 crores. But each family will be getting only Rs. 50 worth of rice and other items. In other words, it could not even amount to a day’s holiday wages.

The imperative of the government in continuing with such scheme in an election year is obvious. However, the government should not be giving alms to the poor. (Let others do it.) It should devise programmes to increase the earning capacities of the poor. The Rs. 10 crore could be better spent for offering, say, scholarships to children of the poor as it did in the case of Muslim girls.

Alms create dependencies and demand will keep on increasing. It is true of even free housing for the poor. The beneficiaries often wait for the government to do the maintenance also. The best example is the One Lakh Housing Scheme. Nearly 50 years after the government gave those free houses to the poor, the government is running lotteries to raise funds for rebuilding the houses.