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India's Dark Night

The Politics Behind the Power Failure

Indian children study by kerosene lamp. (Rupak De Chowdhuri / Courtesy Reuters)

India can boast of the world's biggest democracy and its oldest culture. And now it has added another superlative: site of history's largest power failure. The country's electricity grid faltered on July 30, 2012 and then again the following day. An area that is home to more than half of the country's population -- between 600 million and 700 million people -- went dark.

Most of those living in that area, however, did not feel the loss. A sizeable portion own backup power sources, either diesel-powered generators or inverters, which work like giant batteries. They charge up when electricity is available; when it isn't, they can be used to power whole households. Those who owned generators and inverters turned them on as soon as the grid failed, and their lives went on as normal.

Another part of the population -- millions of people

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