This article was written by Nallmothu Chakravarthy
There was a lightning storm at our farm and the transformer that supplies power went kaput. We get power for 5-6 hours in a day, which now dropped to zero. It is peak summer with temperatures soaring to near 40 degree Celsius. Our trees can barely survive for 2-3 days without water and from that point on, all the effort we put over the year will be for nothing. So, here’s the process of getting the transformer fixed.
The linemen, who are government employees, are the ones who should be fixing this. However, they never show up to fix the supply problems. Apparently, they are busy collecting dues. However, they have unauthorized “helpers” who actually do the field work. So, we called the local helper to come and diagnose the problem. Then we called him and pleaded. We again called and begged and he showered his mercy on us and eventually showed up.
The helper is not actually a bad fella. The two hours he was at our farm his phone rang about 20 times with some people pleading, some screaming, others yelling, then those like me begging, to look at their supply problems. What was his response to every one of those calls? I will be there in half-an-hour!
The helper troubleshoots for couple of hours and then declares that our transformer is malfunctioning and it must be taken away for service. This is an electricity department transformer, so it must be taken to their facility for repair. So, I asked him for the procedure.
First I need to go to the nearest town to get something called a T-note, which authorizes the repair. Helper suggested that we pay a bribe of Rs. 500. Once we get the T-note, we must take it to the Mandal Head Quarters to get a computer generated number. I have no clue what this number is. My employee went there but found that Electricity department employees were on a strike. He joined the strikers picket and shouted slogans and got friendly with an employee and pleaded for the computer generated number- I am dead serious, not joking. The employee almost gave it, but then in the last moment realized that he has to sign a piece of paper which would show that he was working on a strike day. We finally solved the problem by managing one of the electricity department officers. My employee spent a full day getting this paperwork done.
While one of my employees was running around for the paperwork, I had to engage three other employees to lift the transformer from its base and load it on to the tractor trailer. By then it was 2PM and there wasn’t enough time to transport the transformer to the service center as the place is 2 hours drive away from our farm.
Therefore, I am engaging two employees tomorrow for the entire day to transport the transformer get it fixed and bring it back. I am certain we have to pay something at the service center too. In addition, I incur my employee incidentals while they are out on the road- not to mention the loss of work. After all this, I am not too sure if they can fix the unit in one day. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
So, my friends, that is how a government run service works.
Now, let’s look at how the service would work if it were a private sector.
I love the Internet versus Electricity comparison, because they are two very similar services. Both run on wires, both preferably should have uninterrupted service. It’s just that providing Internet service is exponentially more complicated than the electricity supply. Internet is predominantly a private service, while electricity is government run service.
Here are my last two service experiences with the Internet Service Provider (ISP) at home.
First one involved loss of Internet connectivity for a few minutes once in every 5-6 hours. I called the ISP and shouted at them saying it is affecting my work. They sent a tech the same day who said that the company upgraded our apartment’s router to a latest fiber optic router however the latest router was unstable. I threatened the tech to get it reverted back to the old model in a day or else I will talk to the apartment management and get them thrown out. Following day, the old router came back.
The second complaint was even better. Every time we lost power (thanks to our benevolent electricity department), it takes a minute for our power generator to kick in. However, when the power comes back, we don’t get the Internet back right away. It takes nearly 10 minutes after the power is restored for the Internet to start working. I called the ISP and complained. The tech came and explained that when the power is recycled, it takes 5-10 minutes for the router to reboot. The ISP solved the problem by installing a battery backup to the router. Now, we don’t lose Internet even if we lose power.
Now, let’s say Internet Service is owned by the government. How would you get your router problem fixed? You would have to go through the exact motions I am now going through with the electricity department to get my transformer fixed. What if you want a battery backup? You will simply get a middle-finger from your friendly electricity department.
However, here’s the funny thing. People are hardly upset with the inefficient electricity department. But millions are signing petitions demanding “net neutrality” which basically neuters the Internet Service Providers. Where is the outrage against electricity supplier monopoly? Talking about misplaced priorities!
By the way, your ISPs are providing you with ever higher speeds without much increase in the inflation-adjusted-rates. How does that compare with your ever higher electricity rates with falling service standards?
My friends, the future of our society looks bleak. We do not know who our enemy is. Due to a mysterious brain ailment, we eulogize monopolistic government services and demonize competitive private markets. We don’t want to fix government, but want to constantly meddle in private market affairs. As a result, we will continue to suffer from misery, poverty, and economic malaise until this brain ailment is cured.
This article was written by Nallmothu Chakravarthy