Load-shedding schedule – why the great big mystery?

By Fareeha Qayoom

I

am dying to tell you all about the latest on the LESCO front (you know their vendetta with ordinary consumers, like us who dare to go over and voice their protest in person about incorrect meter reading, excessive billing due to fantasy number of units recorded on your bill, sudden arrears thought up to pay for their line losses, staff inefficiencies, and negligence, and various other assorted issues), our electric woes haven’t gone away but that’s another story. Here’s a sneak peek – they sent us a 52K bill on one meter for the month of February. Don’t forget, we have two meters at our place now. The allegation is that we had been stealing electricity or something like that because the number of units dropped on that particular bill since April 2009! Well, obviously, the number of units should drop when our place was split between two meters – duh! I will tell you all about that when there is a conclusion to this latest saga. I have even thought up a fancy title for that story – “the empire strikes back!” (A few days later, the media broke the story that the Sharif brothers were caught stealing electricity from LESCO for one of their GTs! No wonder they are billing ordinary consumers for stolen electricity.)

Energy Saver
Photo by AndrewLeitch

However, today’s rant is not about that. It’s about the excessive load-shedding even before the start of the ‘real’ summer. (We are sitting in April, 2010 only right now). I am ready to tear my hair out. It’s so frustrating. Only the rich can afford petrol and gas run generators, powerful UPS and other means of alternative electricity supply. For the rest of ordinary mortals like us, all we can afford are a few candles and a meager UPS that can run one energy saver bulb for a couple of hours! (Ours was bought for the computer in the good old days when we were comparatively more solvent!)We had another UPS but the battery used to keep conking out so we gave that away gratis. We are thinking of buying those new fangled lights and fans that store electricity like a battery and light up when there is an outage. We are better off than thousands others. They can’t even afford a meager UPS or a steady supply of candles for the full month. So thank God for small mercies. No, this is not rant about haves and have-nots. This is a rant about disrespect and lack of consideration for your fellow human beings by the public servants. This is rant about letting your economy go hang, letting your citizens become unemployed because you can’t solve the basic problems of your country!

For the past couple of weeks, power outages have taken a new turn in Pakistan – 10-12 hours in urban areas, 14-16 hours in rural areas. The funny thing is; domestic consumers have not turned up the Air conditioning (AC) on yet. They aren’t crazy…with the electricity rates going up yet again in April; they simply can’t afford to run even a single AC 24/7. It’s beside the point that LESCO might not let them because of the excessive load-shedding anyway! My point, why are they doing load-shedding when people are asleep? Last time I checked, Pakistan has only one time zone so all citizens keep the same hours. Why are they shedding the load during the night hours?

All I want to know is; why can’t they post a schedule for all their consumers? Is it too much to ask? Who was the Einstein who came up with one hour on, one hour off power outages plan anyway?  (The commercial consumers have all bought powerful Generators and UPS and have just transferred the costs of doing business in Pakistan to the consumers – the ones who can’t have declared bankruptcy, shut down their doors quietly, downsized all their local staff and migrated to greener pastures –the only people impacted are small business units, people who work from home and domestic consumers who have no choice but to struggle on!).Why can’t they let anybody get any sleep at night or get any work done during the day?

At this point, I am even willing to embrace the conspiracy theories floated by Zayd Hamid on TV One that our government is working for some sinister foreign power (read Zionists!) and is intent on trying to ruin Pakistan’s economy in the shortest time possible while it receives kickbacks and dual nationalities for all its staff and their kids’ as potential reward for work well done! (Naw, I am kidding, seriously no foreign government/power in their right mind can fund such a huge government and their weird spending sprees – It would be like dumping money down a giant black hole. It would never be enough – you know what I mean?) Whose side is the government on really? Do they even care about their national agenda? Do they even know what should be the national agenda? Sigh.

Electricity supply, Ooty, India 2005
Photo by exfordy

Imposing 15 percent VAT on all goods and services in couple of months, charging GST now, letting the dollar hike against the rupee, setting up free trade market economy without any regulation whatsoever, taxing everything within sight, your income, your savings, your spending, your assets, goods and services, where can you go? Nepal? Africa? Obviously, the green pass port is not all that popular in the western world. Do they even care? If they had to sit through hours of load-shedding, may be they would understand but the load-shedding is for the riff-raff of this economy – the producers and the consumers – the government has more important stuff to take care off – like how to swing the next IMF loan to pay for this one…since the government is not interested in doing anything for its citizens, why are we even paying their salaries? May be we should fire everyone and run Pakistan without a government? There would hardly be any change since no one seems to be in charge even now – we would be just minus a huge expenditure bill on nothing (paying a lot of incompetent people to loot us and sell us down the river for a mere pittance to anyone who is interested in buying a piece of us! Yes, I am talking about the privatization commission).

Their one hour on and one hour off strategy is not very productive – you can’t sleep, you can’t work, you can’t do anything except get frustrated.  (Did I mention that this schedule is playing havoc with your water supply as well as your UPS’s performance?) By the time you figure out their schedule and adjust your workday around them, they change it. Take yesterday night as an example; they didn’t do load-shedding for three hours straight during the small hours – so why am I cribbing? I should be grateful – well, I am not because I was planning to do some work but because it was unexpected, I had closed down my computer and waited for the axe to fall. It never happened. I didn’t get back to work because they had broken my flow. (My computer is already suffering because of unexpected shut-downs. I will have to get it fixed). In the end, disgusted with the whole thing, I went to bed and fell asleep. The three-hour leverage was probably because it was ZAB’s anniversary or birthday or something. I don’t really know or care.  Bhutto was before my time and he is dead. (I was in grade one when he died!) Ok, he was a national hero but so what? It’s over. Can we please move on?

So is anyone really working on the energy crisis? By the way, you don’t eliminate poverty by making your solvent and skilled poor too – you eliminate poverty by creating jobs and opportunities for the unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled. You create infrastructure and an environment for your citizens so all of them can contribute to their own growth and ultimately to your country’s growth. In other words, you create assets, not liabilities! ■

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