As I was taking a metro towards Jahangirpuri on Saturday June 15, I saw a poster of a political party talking about how they are with the 'Aam Admi'(common man) in every step and are striving to improve the nation in every sphere possible. Looking at the people in the metro I wondered who is an 'Aam Admi'? Is he the common man who goes to work every day from morning to evening just to provide shelter for his family? Is he someone who struggles to put two morsels of food on his plate?
I was travelling towards Jahangirpuri as I received an SMS from Gautam, a resident of that area on my Delhi Crisis Map. It is a tool we built at Greenpeace to map the extent of power cuts in Delhi. Gautam informed me via phone the current state of power cuts are and its effects on his electronic shop.
As I reached Jahingirpuri I realized I am out of urban Delhi and into the very heart of rural Delhi. It's so crowded here that even honey bees would find the suburb spacious. Houses and shops are so closely clustered that there is no room for privacy and eavesdropping is part of daily life.
In this hustle and bustle of rural Delhi I stopped at 'Gautam Electronic Store'. He is the one who sent me an SMS alerting about the frequent power cuts in his area. Gautam is 24 years old and was a B.COM honours student who is working at his fathers shop, as he couldn't get a job. His friends and himself are what one would categorise as having a 'good educational background' but most of them were unemployed or working in shops as none of them were able to get a decent job in Delhi. Another harsh truth about developing India - a majority of my countrymen are still unemployed.
I asked Gautam about how bad the power situation was in his area. He replied, "The power goes off daily for five to six hours and sometimes even for the whole day. It's hard to be in a business of electronics when there is no electricity for six hours daily," he exclaimed.
Then he took me to a nearby shop belonging to Ramesh an iron-welder. I asked him the same question to which he replied, "Business is going under huge loss because of these daily power cuts and it's the same situation all across this area. At times I work late at night to finish the job as if I don't complete my work in time and I will lose valuable customers."
It's frightening to see how these long power cuts are affecting these small-scale industries. Some of the shopkeepers are seriously thinking of selling their shop and going back to their respective villages. I asked them why they don't complain to the concerned authority and that's when the mood changed. Gautam's father and the owner of the shop who were quietly observing me throughout then approached me.
Gautam's father is in his 60 and seemed to be a happy-go-lucky sort of person. But the lines on his forehead were a clear indication of many years of hard-work and the smile on his face showed that he has lost the battle, but not without a tough fight!
He laughed saying who will listen to people like us, the government doesn't care, they come only before elections with their fake speeches and fake promises. I immediately told them to complain to NDPL (North Delhi Power Limited). At this point he showed me the NDPL electricity bills.
He and everyone in the area have been over-billed for months and the bills clearly showed this appalling fact. Despite repeated complaints no one has shown up to correct the bills.
I asked him how he feels about the power cuts in his area and he responded with an analogy comparing the power cuts to missing a dear one and how electricity is an important part of earning their livelihood. When I asked him how exactly his livelihood is affected he brushed me off saying, "We are struggling to have dal-roti for a day. Business-loss is not even in our mind. "
During the conversation I asked him if he knows about solar panels and he replied in the affirmative saying he would not mind having solar panels in his house. However, once I started talking about the initial investment required he said it would be really difficult to make such an investment personally. Then he drifted into talking about the callousness of the government and how he has seen the times changing along with the government. He had pretty strong views against the government saying they had sold Jahangirpuri and its people for corporate profits.
This further reinforced my view that to have free and clean energy for everyone the government has to take the initiative. Our economy was designed to have a trickle down effect but sadly there is skewed concentration of wealth where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
It's time to change the system and rage against the machinery as it has failed miserably. It's time we start a bottom-up approach and I firmly believe free energy for everyone is the first step towards nation building as energy gives us the power to do things.
We at Greenpeace India have a dream of channelizing this energy in the right direction and building a sustainable future where places like Jahangirpuri will be able to afford and produce their own energy without relying on other sources. They must be able to live their lives in peace and harmony, not under the fear of power cuts where everyday is a fight for survival.
Before leaving, Gautam and his Dad wished Greenpeace and myself luck in spreading the solar message. I hope in the future we can make a difference and complete our solar mission just so that we can bring the smile back on these peoples faces. They are bearing the brunt of the blunders being committed by the people running this once glorious nation.
It is a distant dream and I know that there is a long and hard road full of perils in between its realisation but with hope, faith and love we can conquer all these blockades and secure the future for our children.
Shiwang Singh works for Greenpeace India for Strategic Response. To report and map power cuts in Delhi, click here.