What the Massive Blackout Says About India

Embarrassing questions raised for country with big ambitions
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2012 12:05 PM CDT
What the Massive Blackout Says About India
A young Indian girl reads a book by candle light during a regular load shedding in Mainakhurung on the outskirts of Gauhati, India, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012.   (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

India's power outage—among the biggest in the history of the world—is over, with the situation returning to what the power minister called "normal" by last night. But the questions are just beginning, note the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. The blackout, which affected some 670 million, is extremely embarrassing for India, with its ambitions of becoming a world superpower, and it highlights problems with the country's infrastructure. An aging electrical grid is one issue; coal is another—though the country has upped its coal-fired generating capacity of late, transmission lines can't support the additional load.

And, analysts say, the government, which has so far failed to give a definitive cause for the two days of blackouts, is failing to deal with the structural problems—even though they threaten India's ability to attract foreign investors. One government agency estimates these blackouts cut India's growth rate by 1.2%. "I imagine this event will make for a larger number of people thinking of pulling out, and moving out their investments, including back to the US," says one. "If you're doing a country risk assessment of where to go and where to stay, increased cost, a less willing political system and an unreliable grid are not good factors." Adding to India's image problem: corruption scandals, a dangerously underfinanced railway system, and widespread hunger with no food distribution reforms in sight. (More India stories.)

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