Why BESCOM’s terrible service is actually a good thing

I’m sitting on my beanbag, leaned back comfortably — to seize the day by working on something creative — from home.

As my laptop’s screen instantly dims, the fan stops rotating, and I see that last bit of light disappears from my Wifi routers LED display, I realise what has happened, again. A power cut.

If you live in Bangalore, the so-called Silicon Valley of India, and have tried — working from home, sleeping in on a warm Sunday morning, taking a hot shower, watching your favourite sports game on TV, cooking after sunset, or tried to do anything that remotely requires electricity — you might have experienced a similar “Oh! Not again!” feeling on almost a semi-daily basis.

As you accept your fate for the next few hours, the optimist in you makes that call to 1912 or send a WhatsApp message to namma helpline. If you’re lucky, you then get a phoney docket number which is a by-product of a simple Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V, done by some poor soul and/or system.

The ubiquitous “docket number”. Worse than Airtel.

Fine. I’ll out the robotic-nonchalant elephant in the room and cut to the problem: Bangalore Electricity Supply Company, otherwise known as BESCOM, or namma BESCOM.

Don’t you worry, I am not going to rant on about how badly BESCOM sucks as an electricity supply company. There’s a lot of that available on Reddit forums.

Me, I’ve learnt to see the bright side of life — even in all the darkness that BESCOM has endowed upon me, my friends, and my community just in the last 3 years.

Okay, maybe a little bit of ranting is needed to give context for those of you who are thinking “What the hell is this guy talking about? I have no such problem in my city or area!” (Proof of context: My chat transcript with BESCOM starting from June 2017 until today).

Just a meme to keep you going.

I remember that when I used to visit my friends and family in Bangalore, as a kid, they boasted about how Chennai had scheduled power cuts and Bangalore had none. Maybe they were over-compensating for all the IPL thrashing. But, I now realise their privilege.

Solarify’s customer talks about unscheduled power cuts in his area.

Namma Bengaluru, the capital city of Karnataka — an energy surplus state, #1 in solar energy installations in the country — is a land of haves and have-nots (of the uninterrupted power supply). This is a city whose DISCOM responds to tweets quicker than phone calls, cuts a power connection faster than it approves one, and charges an Annual Security Deposit (ASD) for close to zero infrastructure development (yes, I’m talking about those sparks flying from your neighbourhood transformer, a.k.a., unreachable Barbeque station). This is a land of unscheduled power cuts for those who have no voting power.

Some damning statistics, for you.

The Bangalorean Theorem.

1 > The higher your voting power, more the electricity you deserve.
2 > The lower your voting power, lesser the electricity you deserve.

Okay, ranting aagidh.

I have 4 reasons why BESCOM being a sucky C3PO or R2D2 or BB-8 (replace with “Alexa” or “Google Assistant” or “Siri”, if you were born after 2000) is actually great.
So, let’s dive in.

1. It will push more people to care about it and demand better service in this age of service-related start-up unicorns.

I dream of a Bangalore where BESCOM executives are just a tap of a button away — not unlike SwiggyBytes, Zomato, and Flipkart.

2. More people might vote — and vote sensibly.

I look forward to a Bangalore where more power cuts under a government will directly translate into fewer votes in the next election.

Of course, this would require the average human attention span to improve. But, hey, bright side.

3. People might move away from BESCOM.

With existing and developing technology, people will be able to live entirely off-the-grid. We’d have more power to (and from) renewables.

I envision a Bangalore that runs on clean power and devolves back to ambient temperatures from 2004.

4. People will give a damn about saving energy.

You realise the value of something only when it’s gone” is not just some cheesy philosophical phrase but holds true to unscheduled power cuts.

I see a Bangalore whose people save electricity. I see they use what they need only, to leave some for those who do not have.

But, even today, if you live in the powerful voting populaces of Bangalore, you might think that I’m full of crap. However, for people like me, the student population, the working class, the not-so-rich urban dwellers, the so-called immigrants; you have a choice. Stay down, get out, or fight it.

So, go ahead — send out that angry tweet, compose that Facebook rant, write that 952-word article, make your voice heard. As BESCOM sucking so bad fuels our scepticism, it’ll make Bengaluru v2.0 — a city of equitable power supply — a damning reality.


CALL TO ACTION

> Share this story with your friends and family who go through something like this on a regular basis.

> Reply with your opinions and suggestions for the community to deal with something like this.


ABOUT ME

I was born in Mannargudi, Tamil Nadu, brought up in Jamshedpur, and then moved to Chennai in 2007 where I spent all of my young adult life. I moved to Bangalore in 2015 for my Master’s degree, and now, I work with Solarify, an early-stage solar energy start up.

All my life, I have faced scheduled power cuts for 12 hours, power cuts due to floods for days, and even stayed in my hometown (a small town in Tamil Nadu) for months together with may be 5 or 6 power cuts.

Bangalore though, has been able to endow me with more power outages in just the last 3 years as compared to the previous 22 years of my life. Damning evidence that something is really wrong, isn’t it?

Aaaannd, that is why my life goal is to help design a communities where everyone has equitable supply of electricity.