We saw a leaflet in a cafe somewhere for a showing of a documentary film by a group calling themselves popupdocs. It was for a film called “Powerless” about the problems of power generation in an Indian city called Kanpur. Our curiosity piqued I booked tickets online and we found that the film was being shown at a large and popular Indian restaurant “Eastern Eye” in Quiet Street.
The Eastern Eye is in a cavernous upper room that was originally an 18th century ballroom combining the elegant style of Regency England…
with the somewhat more gaudy style of India…
The film was shown at one end of the rather noisy restaurant but since it was subtitled it didn’t matter that we couldn’t hear the soundtrack properly. Afterwards a Bangladeshi academic from Bath University gave some observations on the film but it was very hard to hear him properly which was a shame as I think he made some interesting and worthwhile observations about the nature of everyday corruption in India.
The documentary focused on Kanpur, a city of 3 million people, which has a highly unreliable, chaotic and antiquated power supply that made doubly worse by the massive level of stealing of electricity via the simple expedient of attaching wires to the legitimate power cables. Individuals make a living out of doing this with just a pair of pliers. It is unbelievably dangerous but highly appreciated by the ordinary poor who can’t afford to pay for power anyway.
The power company appeared to be appalling badly run and had parachuted in a woman CEO whose only solution was to send out squads of power company employees to identify power thefts and threaten large fines or to cut off power. It was entirely symptom treating without any attempt to deal with the underlying problem.
We also saw the way in which politicians cynically used the issue of power supply in the election process with senior party figures helicoptering in and promising solutions that never transpire after they elected.
Needless to say there were many scenes of desperate poverty and startlingly dangerous workshops with machinery that looked like it was about 100 years old being powered by wires that were figuratively sparking and flaming.
We ended the evening with a very acceptable Indian meal but concluded that it was not as good as the Indian Palace in Balmain.