Archive for May, 2009

Milon-AG & WIP to LED

1 May 2009


An unwary observer of Indian State would be forgiven for concluding that ‘Bumbling Bureaucracy‘ characterizes administration in India. How else does one explain that AAK & AI ended up having same DNA profile though the duo is not even remotely related except as ‘brother terrorists’ in Mumbai Attacks? Pakistan gleefully pointed out this discrepancy when it received the evidence-dossier from India on Pakistani terror links. While Pranab as MEA was miffed at the diplomatic embarrassment & wanted head/s to roll, Chindambaram as MHA concluded it was a ‘minor clerical gaffe‘ & was not irremediable. Indian state has for long learnt that the true nature of life as enunciated by Gautama the Buddha is, “Impermanence” & “change“. Disasters occur & fed away. Crises precipitate & then are overtaken by others. Change is constant & Indian masses too have learnt that well. Not today but through millennia. People have also learnt that self help is a certainty & state-aid is a conjecture. State help may not happen or may; and when it does it could be tardy, uneven or untimely. But Indian state has also learnt an important lesson of far reaching consequences. That is Impermanence of public memory & anger. Much was made of public anguish & anger in the wake of 2611. Solidarity meetings & candlelight vigils were mounted by Mumbaikars to show “we are one & in it together”. Grief & resentment had poured out against callous government response & ineptitude in providing security to citizens. Politicians as a class were damned. Youth was at the forefront. Apathy of upwardly mobile urban classes was shed when tragedy befell in their watering holes. All this was to translate into rise of political consciousness & was to reflect in unprecedented voter turnout on the ballot day. Or at least it should have reflected in poll boycotts to register a negative vote. What happened? Mumbai registered the same secular trend of apathy (40-45%) as rest of Maharashtra.

This is where the ‘Q‘ factor enters scene – courtesy ‘investigation‘ by IE of CBI papers (Convenience Bureau of India for the ruling formation to turn on & off the tap of investigation against inconvenient opponents). A RCN (red corner notice) is issued via Interpol to nab Ottavio Quattrocchi based on a charge sheet filed against him in 1997. Attempt to nab Q in Malaysia fails as the bird escapes even before the cage is ordered. Years later lady luck smiles as Argentinean police arrest Q in 2007, but now CBI has to prove its case in court there to secure extradition. Q’s lawyer digs out a small detail that undoes CBI’s ‘best laid plans‘. A 1999 charge sheet against Q supersedes the earlier one of 1997, but this upgrade fails to reflect in the RCN, which happily chugs along until derailed by Q in Argentina. Another substantive point was also raised regarding maintainability of RCN when the Delhi High Court order in 2004 had dismissed the Bofor’s case under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Q not only goes a freeman, he gets paid court expenses, reward for his labours, by CBI under Argentinean court’s order. Enter Milon (Banerji) -Attorney General of India. Convenience Bureau of India conveniently asks for legal opinion as to course open to it ahead. AG in October 2008 conveniently avers that since SLP (special leave petition) was not filed against the High Court order he is forced to agree (with Q) that RCN is not maintainable. CBI then quietly asks Interpol to drop the inconvenient RCN when it is further ‘frightened‘ by a threat from emboldened Q of a lawsuit, possibly in an international jurisdiction. All this is going on while some case against Q in the trial court is still in deep slumber, presumably brain dead, but technically still alive. Once one accepts this theme of ‘constancy of change‘, then any astute observer will readily acknowledge that Milon-AG of October 2008 is not the same person as Milon-AG of July 2004, when that earlier Milon-AG had held, in agreement with ‘careful summary‘ prepared by R L Meena – Law Secretary, that the ‘case‘ is not fit for filing SLP. As Tao will say : “Action through Inaction“. What better efficiency can be there? What appears as bumbling & bungling are nothing but “Maya” (illusion), the ultimate reality is Action through Inaction.

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Work In Progress : 3Rs

Last November, when PPP (President Pratibha Patil) came to inaugurate ‘Puneki Shaan‘-Commonwealth youth games, her “Raj-path” from the airport to stadium included Baner road that was fully ‘renewed‘ using Reinforced Cement Concrete – a miracle of maintenance & pothole free modern motorway. Not to mention the beautification of walls along the route by adorning them in colourful hieroglyphics. Unfortunately, Baner road has a major offshoot in the garb of poor “bitumen surfaced” cousin called Aundh-ITI road. My relocation to Aundh happened around the same time as the games progressed. I have witnessed this “T” joint of Baner-Aundh roads made of paving blocks being repaired, re-laid & remade 5 times during past 6 months. On every occasion these 5000 odd square feet are lovingly tended to at least 10 days at a stretch. The devotion shown to the job by the PMC teams involved & their supreme faith that somehow it will work ‘this time‘ is really touching. I find it uncharitable when fellow citizens see corruption, negligence & ineptitude in the entire endeavour. It is their habit of taking things at face value that misleads them. Following is an attempt to dig deeper to find the truth.

Sustainable living movement captured the essence of their programme about two decades ago in a simple trinity of 3-Rs : Reduce, Reuse & Recycle. It simply urged to economise on the use of resources, say by using a 10 Watt bulb whenever it suffices in place of 40 Watt, to redeploying the resources, say by turning over an envelope for second life, and to regenerate when feasible, say by converting used paper to pulp to back again to paper. As if on cue, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), may be typical of any civic body in the country, has fashioned long ago its own trinity of 3-Rs : Repair, Remake & Renew. It works like this. Pune is heralded as a front runner in India for new age services industry requiring ‘world class‘ infrastructure. It therefore needs to be wired for 3G communication & seamless movement of traffic. Grandiose plans are then put in place to run concealed trenches along the road for fibre optic cabling, pipelines & other services. Typically city roads are taken up for makeover just 3/4 months before the monsoon. That reminds PMC of providing for storm water drainage. But then monsoon is so near & unluckily early pre-showers (God’s will) are a nasty portent, so the road surfacing is undertaken on ‘war footing‘. Naturally, foundation, earth compacting etc. have to be short-changed for speedy completion. A couple of showers later the road starts looking like lunar surface. This is when repair phase kicks in while ‘patchwork filling‘ plays hide n seek with showers. End of monsoon season & the road is now ready for remaking. But then the digging phase starts for laying assorted pipelines, cables & sundry hardware. So whatever flaws outlived the repair phase are totally obliterated & now the road is really ready for remaking. Remaking then carries on for next several months with encores as needed until it is discovered that ‘good roads‘ is an intractable problem that can only be solved with ‘state of the art‘ technology. Pour in the RCC roads & the renew phase has begun. Many public spirited individuals find all this wilful waste of public money & national resources. Don’t they look small minded & short sighted? There are immense benefits of Repair-Remake-Renew cycle or Work In Progress (WIP) strategy.

  • Increased demand for aggregates, bitumen, steel, cement etc.
  • Generation of employment on a regular & predictable basis.
  • Building up of skills & on the job training opportunities for municipal staff, contractors, sub-contractors etc.
  • Strengthening services sector by deploying consultants, outside quality controllers, eTendering professionals etc.
  • Ensuring capital flows from property tax payers to contractors, sub-contractors, skilled/semiskilled artisans & labourers, civic representatives etc.
  • Media gets to chew upon the state of civic affairs, NGOs & public spirited individuals get gainfully activated, courts get an opportunity to deliberate upon public interest, police get to hone their skills in managing traffic jams & road rage, and so on.
  • Improving the sense of well being of Punekars is obtained by providing them opportunity to live in a continuously updating city.

If one were to consider the benefits accruing out of what economists call multiplier effect (say employment generation in cement, steel industry), then the spin offs will be staggering. Much talk is there in the political circles about ‘Pune pattern‘, wherein NCP, BJP & Shivsena have come together to do unto PMC (remember 3-Rs) what PMC has done unto Pune. Aim is that the PMC will be better equipped to serve Punekars than it was under Congress. In fact, in the Global recessionary climate, I believe, the ‘economic Pune pattern‘ (Work In Progress : 3Rs) must make it not only to national level, but also to international level. Are Obama, Merkel, Hu listening?

PS : Just bordering Pune there runs a road from “Chandni Chowk” (not to confuse with Delhi) to “Lavasa“. It is a road surfaced with undue amount of bitumen, underneath soil compacting seems to have been done overzealously & solid Footing appears to have been negligently provided. The road even has good shoulders on either side (rarity in India) where your two or four wheeler will not overturn (at great loss to health care industry) in case you are pushed on to it. It even has proper inclination on turns & storm water runs off without forming puddles. In short it is an archetype of what roads in India should not be like. It has been laid by Indian engineers & contractors & sub-contractors & labourers. All the materials used are indigenous. Then why is it so ‘shoddy‘? Road connects to Independent India’s largest hill station – where between cradle to coffin the resident need not step out of the dream. A privately owned dream called “Lavasa” spread over some 10 thousand acres of hilly land acquired when even the now much discredited SEZ ( special economic zone) policy that permits creation of such colossal ‘Land –Banks‘ for the first time in India was not even dreamt of. This Pune-Lavasa ‘silk-route‘ was built with public money to serve private good by providing great connectivity. Indeed, how short-sighted it has proved. None of the great spin-offs of ‘WIP-3Rs‘ are available in that venture. It is only when public money serves public good that WIP can be properly implemented for greater good.

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LED Conundrum

IE had an article (by Sunanda Mehta, P17,29 April 09) on LED lamps introduced by Crompton Greaves. Sparse data mentioned could be summarized as 5W LED can replace 40W GLS (incandescent) lamp, but costs INR 1,200/- a piece, has a life of some 50,000 hours & India uses some 800 million GLS lamps a year. I decided to carry out a fun exercise after making some simple but valid assumptions & then playing around with figures.

  • Each bulb will be used for 12 hours a day. One LED bulb saves 35W (=40-5)
  • Mass market for LED bulbs will bring down the cost to INR 250/- a piece.(very much on the cards already due to new technologies)
  • Production of LED lamps can be ramped up to desired levels in 1 year.
  • GLS lamps usage in a year is say more realistic at 200 million pieces(rather than 800 million).
  • An atomic power plant costs around INR 90 million per MW.

Energy Saved/annum by using LED lamps in place of GLS Lamps =

Wattage saved x No. of lamps x Hours used x days per year

35W x 200 Million x 12 hours x 365 days =


Watt Hours

MW hours saved/ annum = watt hours/1,000,000, =


MW Hours

cost of replacing GLS by 200 Million LED=200 Million x INR 250/- =



Power Plant capacity required to generate 30,660,000MW hours per annum & its cost

For a power plant that works 24×365(?) the capacity will be =



Cost of Atomic power plant will be 90 million x 3,500 MW =



Conclusion : It makes sense for GOI (read ruling coalition) to invest Rs. 5,000 crores in buying & distributing 20 crores LED bulbs free to people of India (& earn wins in 2 general elections as a bonus) rather than investing Rs. 31,500 crores in a atomic power plant.

Replacing 200 million GLS by LED lamps costs less than 1/6th of investing in a atomic power plant, gestation period of 1 to 2 years is far less than 8 years for an atomic power plant, is eco friendly & has no problem of radioactive wastes – storage & disposal, can be used for trading in carbon credits, has no recurring costs like in running a power plant, amortization of investment is over 11 years during which newer, cheaper & safer technologies will be available for use, does not require forcible acquisition of land by evicting present legal occupants/owners in ‘public interest‘, even compares well when pitted against thermal power plants having INR 50 million/MW investment and 4 years of gestation time.

Why do then our ‘rulers’ overlook these simple facts & make beeline for ‘deals‘ with USA or others? Well, using LED is a simple solution. Everyone with little effort would understand its economics. That makes it difficult to hoodwink the masses unlike in the case of esoteric atomic power plants that are best left to ‘experts‘. It lacks the romance of power & prestige that nuclear power & dallying with the super power can bestow.

PS : Daily ‘Sakal‘ ran a story sometime during last summer when power shortages were peaking in Maharashtra, wherein a gentlemen had contended that by installing high capacity Capacitors, which act like transient storage batteries, at various power distribution switchyards & other places almost 1000 MW of power generation capacity will be freed at a modest cost of Rs. 400 crores. BTW, both technology & manufacturing capacity for making capacitors already exists abundantly in India. Andhra & Gujarat have apparently implemented this strategy.

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