The Blackout In India
To my friends in India, I hope you’re fairly weathering your blackout.
I was just reading through some BBC coverage which has reporters spread across northern India, including Utter Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, and West Bengal.
The report suggests Calcutta was not as badly affected as other regions, because it has a private electricity board, but that power went out across the rest of West Bengal state.
Thus far, coverage suggests the power breakdowns in India are mainly in the north, the east, and the northeast, and that about 600 million people have been in affected in over 20 Indian states.
To put that in perspective for those of us here in the west, that would be like the power going out across all of the U.S. and all of the United Kingdom, at once.
Yes, just imagine that.
Obviously, there will be lots of fingerpointing until an investigation can get to the bottom of this, but in the meantime it demonstrates once again how fragile infrastructure can be, in both emerging and advanced economies.
In the Northeast blackout of 2003 here in the U.S., some 55 million U.S and Canadian citizens were impacted and some left without power for up to 16 hours.
Though there was no major civil unrest during that particular blackout, one need simply just read the Wikipedia entry of that event to remember how many “systems” were impacted: everything from transportation to healthcare to water supply.
In India, telecommunications are being particularly hard hit in this outage, because so many people there depend on mobile phone service for their communications. Even if the cell towers have backup generators, many folks in rural India have no alternative method of recharging their cell phones once that primary charge dissipates.
Also, business process outsourcing companies such as Wipro, Genpact, WNS and others have “kicked in business continuity plans” to ensure continuity of services to global clients. Thus far, The Hindu Business Line is reporting that the IT-BPO industry, which accounts for over 7% of Indian GDP, are running their operations at centers in the north and eastern India using backup generators running on diesel.
The Wall Street Journal India has an “IndiaRealTime” blog where you can follow the latest on the India power outage.