London, June 23 : London was the venue of an annual summit between the leaders of Indian industry and their British counterparts.
The annual event has certainly seen the growth of joint ventures and a move in the mergers and acquisitions of industrial units by either country-more by India.
India today is the second largest investor nation in the United Kingdom. They say it is something like the Empire Strikes Back'. The Indians seem to be truly at home doing business here. Summer is also the time when hordes of India's upper middle class descend upon London for a holiday.
A pretty boring (as though laid on by a Third World country) reception where the industrialists of the two nations rubbed shoulders with each other, was an occasion to gauge as to what had been achieved by this year's summit. The conference has been successful, but one complaint from the British counterparts was on the energy scenario. They did not seem to be complaining about any other delays apart from getting land to start up new units.
It was clear from the interaction at the reception that Indian industrialists and CEOs were too used to running industries and their work places on captive power plants fuelled by diesel. They had given in to the inaction by the Government in dealing with the energy scenario or the sick electricity departments of the states. No one expected the energy scene to improve in the foreseeable future.
London was also the venue of yet another extremely heart warming event that has almost gone unnoticed. Believe it or not, two different Indian organisations doing silent work in India on sustainable energy were the recipients of the prestigious Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy. Sure, India needs huge power plants, but in the end it is how we use that energy that matters,
Mr. K.V. Kamath, Managing Director and CEO of ICICI Bank led the delegation of India's big industries at the Annual Summit of Indo-UK businessmen. The irst Ashden Award to be won this year was by AGB (Aryavart Gramin Bank) for expanding access to rural electricity in one of India's poorest states -- Uttar Pradesh by offering small loans to farmers to buy Solar Home Systems (SHS). The scheme is promoted through the 289 branches of the bank and they have managed to install around 10,000 systems so far.
Commenting on this particular award, Sarah Butler, founder of Ashden Awards, was highly supportive of AGB "in helping finance solar energy in rural India where it had the great potential of expansion including the possibility of making solar photo-voltaic mainstream in India's villages"
The Second Ashden Award-"Energy Champion" title went to Technology Information Design Endeavour (TIDE) that pioneered sustainable energy projects in Southern states of Karnataka, and Kerala and is now expanding towards Tamil Nadu and Andhra.
The absence of electricity in many of the small industries in the South has led to the use of wood to run stoves and boilers. This causes pollution and deforestation apart from dangerous working conditions. Building on the design of Indian Institute of Science, TIDE provides fuel-efficient wood stoves and kilns, which save at least 30 percent of fuel and are tailor made for specific small industries. To date 110,000 workers enjoy better conditions apart from saving energy.
Accepting the Award on behalf of TIDE, Svati Bhogle said "Ashden Award is not just an acknowledgement of past success; it is the acceptance of responsibility and gives us the motivation to venture into uncharted terrain, to first break new ground and then develop it into beaten track"
Thus we find from the above (1) That big industry has given up in trying to tap or push for sustainable sources of energy; (2) That pioneers in small scale sector are showing the way to meet the challenge for they have to make do with small money and (3) That the government has yet to come up with any energy solution that can take care of the big industry and the rural economy.
It is heart warming to see small pioneers breaking fresh ground, but when will the elephant of a Government we have, wake up. How long will the game of power politics in New Delhi; the weakness of coalition governments continue to play havoc with India's energy scene, only time will tell. One thing that can be said with certainty at the moment is that New Delhi is not showing the determination or the will to catch the bull by its horns. India has the wherewithal to meet the challenge, if only the Government in New Delhi is strong and bold enough to take the initiative and deal with the energy problem. By Prem Prakash