Load-shedding sched­ule – why the great big mys­tery?

By Fareeha Qay­oom


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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