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From this week, Chennai residents will have to put up with an unprecedented 90 minutes of scheduled load shedding, those in the suburbs will have no power for three hours while those living in the rest of the state will be powerless for five hours st

Chennai Corner

Powerless In The City
Just as swallows are synonymous with summer, so are powercuts, usually. But this September has brought powercuts like Chennai and Tamil Nadu have never seen. Even at the height of summer, the city did not see more than an hour a day of powercuts and that too lasted just for a week or so. From this week, however, Chennai residents will have to put up with an unprecedented 90 minutes of scheduled load shedding, those in the suburbs will have no power for three hours while those living in the rest of the state will be powerless for five hours staggered over the day.

What accounts for this crisis? Here are the numbers: Total installed capacity: 10,122 mw. Demand: 9,567 mw. Generated capacity: 6,048 mw. Which basically means a shortfall of about 3,500 mw. Until last week, the generated capacity was 8,500 mw, but with wind energy generation down by 2000 mw, TN has a full blown crisis. Only 70 mw of wind energy was generated last week.

According to G.M. Pillai, chairman, World Institute of Sustainable Energy, "No investment has taken place in wind energy in the state for the last two years. The southern tip of TN is ideal for setting up offshore wind energy farms and the government should do so at the earliest." Of the 3750 mw of wind energy that can be harnessed in the state, only 3523 mw has been exploited. Unlike mega plants that generate thousands of megawatts of power but take years to build, small wind energy farms can be up and running quickly.

But investors have turned back because of inadequate infrastructure as a result of which the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) was not able to transmit all the generated wind energy to its grids in the last 18 months.

Better Than UP...
The lack of power the whole night in a slum colony near Kodambakkam resulted in an attack on the TNEB's building last week. If there had been power, perhaps the four residents, who vandalized the office, would not have gone to the nearest bar and acquired the Dutch Courage needed to trash the furniture!

One of the fall-outs of the drop in energy output has been diesel shortage because many commercial establishments are using diesel to run generators. The driver of the taxi I hired last week to go to Tirupati (to see actor Chiranjeevi unveil his party) said he had to wait two hours at a petrol bunk to get diesel. Many are switching to invertors, an idea that some power deficient states like Karnataka and Goa cottoned onto years ago. On the streets, with signals down, there are more cops directing traffic. One hilarious consequence is that with more police on the road waiting to ambush you, less people are talking on their cellphones. Another hilarious complaint is from a school teacher: "Because the intercoms don't work, we have to send a peon to each class if we have to make an urgent announcement." Heartrending!

But power minister Arcot Veeraswamy, incidentally a former employee and union leader of the TNEB, gave the mother of all excuses when he was criticized for the power cuts. He said his wife was just back from a pilgrimage to Banaras and she told him Chennai was better powerwise than the holy city. But last time I looked Chennai was seen as a hub for industry because of its infrastructure and investors are supposed to be making a beeline here. And let's face it, UP cannot be compared to TN.

Chennai Versus Bangalore
When Infosys' Mohandas Pal and Wipro's Laxman K Badiga on two consecutive days last week complained that traffic bottlenecks had made commuting a nightmare for their employees, eyebrows shot up. "When Chennai-based companies have not made such a song and dance, why are these companies from Bangalore making such a noise?" asked one irked Chennaite, who has relocated from Mumbai, the original traffic nightmare city. He was referring to Bangalore's IT czars frequently complaining about the roads on what used to be India's garden city/ pensioners' paradise but today has become synonymous with traffic snarls and a city where traffic not only crawls but stops long enough for you to hop out and buy yourself a cup of coffee from a roadside tea kade (tea shop).

"The roads are crowded. It is becoming like Hosur Road in Bangalore," complained Infy's human resource director Mohandas Pai. I beg to differ. I was in Bangalore recently and it took me three hours at 7 a.m. from Yelahanka to get past Hosur, which is a chaotic maze of traffic, construction and people trying to cross the road. Yes, there are a lot of vehicles here and parts of Old Mahabalipuram Road, Poonamalee High Road and other arterial roads are potholed and sometimes don't even exist. And yes, airport to Tidel Park, which is the IT corridor, takes an hour during peak hours as compared to 40 minutes five years ago. But three hours? No way.

But it must also be said that at 32 lakh vehicles -- up from 8 lakh 12 years ago -- Chennai's traffic is bursting at its seams. "80 per cent of the vehicles are two-wheelers. No other metro in India has so many two wheelers. So, motorists, especially two-wheeler drivers should consider switching to public transport," suggests Sunil Kumar, Additional Commissioner of Police (traffic). That's easier said than done because so many vehicles are on city roads precisely because public transport is not topnotch. "Imposing a tax on a single person traveling in a car, like they do in London, will encourage car pooling and help decongest roads," says A Vellayan, vice-chairman, Murugappa Group. Well said, but is anybody listening?

Dheena Can Talk
With the Beijing Olympics just over, it is still the season of breaking world records. Big FM's R J Dheena broke the current Guinness World Record of being on air continuously for 135 hours set by an Italian, Stefano Venneri, last year. He said he was showcasing "Tamilian pride" and he did it in style. Dheena not only surpassed the Italian's record but set a new record for being on air for 168 hours. He actually set out to do 150 hours over a seven day period starting on August 21

Hear it from the 34-year-old engineering graduate from Salem: "I wanted to stand out as an RJ. Life should not just be about working and earning a salary. I also wanted to prove a Tamil can do it." Well, he had already "done it" by getting his name into the Limca Book of Records last year by hosting shows for 92.7 hours (incidentally, the frequency of BIG FM). Dheena loves to push the envelope. He hosted a show from a hot air balloon on July 26,  that is barely a month ago. He already has fans for the energy, entertainment and information he bring to his shows that come on between 7 am to 1 am everyday when he talks nineteen to the dozen interspersed with spinning discs. He says he tries not to get preachy because that will put people off. "I observe things around me, I read, surf the Net and the TV channels. With experience, you can zero in on topics that resonate with the listeners."

So how did an engineer become an RJ? "I could not see myself doing quality checks," he says. He did the rounds with movie troupes, even did mimicry interludes in bigger acts till he was "discovered" by Sun Network's Suryam FM. He then switched to BIB FM where he says he has evolved. Somewhere in the future is a plan to train RJs.


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