Saturday, October 08, 2011

Mother of all scams is not 2G but electrification of Indian Railways

The truth is that scams of much larger proportion were very much there even in the immediate post-independence India. Some got exposed, but some never. The most important difference is that with the passing of each year we have more and more means to know about them, therefore, we are able to know more about them.

The expansion of media, the emergence of strong bi-polar politics, enactment of Acts like RTI, judicial activism etc have made the common citizens more aware of various charges of corruption.

Today’s Suresh Kalmadi is in jail, but there might have been a Kalmadi––may be a much smaller in stature––during the 1982 Asiad Games too. But he could never be detected, thanks to weak media and opposition. Certainly everything was not hunky-dory then.

A senior railway official once commented privately that possibly the biggest scam in the country took place more than half a century back when the decision regarding the electrification of Indian Railways was taken. The decision in this regard was taken many years before the so-called Oil Crisis of 1973.

Today rail traffic gets stalled for hours and Accident Relief Trains could not reach the spot in time of emergency because the overhead wires get disconnected even after a minor mishap or derailment of one or two coaches.

Producing power to run electric trains requires lakhs of tonnes of coal every year. Huge dams were constructed causing environmental pollution and displacement of millions. Besides, the social cost it entails is much more than the amount spent on importing diesel.

According to that official the country may never be able to overcome the power crisis because these trains consume so much electricity. Diesel engines are equally efficient and powerful and do not pose any problem in reaching anywhere in the country in any circumstances. Incidentally, the first Rajdhani Express on electrified Howarh-New Delhi track introduced more than 40 years back was powered by diesel engine and it continued to do so for years. Even the US, China and many European countries prefer diesel engines over electric locomotives.

This whole exercise of electrification was taken under the influence of big lobbies––national and international. Yet nobody questioned it then and nor today some five decades later. But 2G Spectrum is on everyone’s lips.
Soroor Ahmed in Two circles. Here

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