When the handsome crown prince of the ruling party, the Indian National Congress, Rahul Gandhi stood up in the Lok Sabha on July 22 to expound on energy security while defending the India-US civil nuclear cooperation deal, in the debate on the trust motion, I said to myself that the young leader had the best chance to prove his mettle. He was on the live television with a captive audience and friendly news channels to glorify him.
He took us to the poor homes of Sasikala and Kalawati in Vidarbha, which he toured recently in his "discover India" journey. He talked of Sasikala and her husband's meagre daily wages and their three children's big dreams. He also narrated details of Kalawati's large family and her farmer husband's suicide. He tried to trace their misery to their lack of access to energy.
What baffled me was the irrelevance of the Sasikala and Kalawati stories to the subject on hand - nuclear energy in the context of the India-US deal. Can he wipe their tears in the foreseeable future with nuclear energy? There are millions and millions of Sasikalas and Kalawatis in the boondocks of India who have no access to safe drinking water, housing, electricity, employment, etc. They are trapped in poverty. We even see them on the footpaths of some major roads in the capital, begging along with babies in their arms. They are nearer home. Why did Rahul have to travel to Bundelkhand and Vidarbha to see them?
In 60 years of independence, we have not fully exploited our rich natural resources to expand electrification to reach the rural poor. We have power crisis even in most metropolitan cities.
Now, suddenly we are obsessed with nuclear power as if it would electrify our rural areas in no time if the Indo-American deal goes through, revolutionising the power scene in the country. What a terrible fraud on the Sasikalas and Kalawatis and their children!
The writer features regularly in mainstream newspapers in their respective "Letters to the Editor" columns