Ground Report | New Delhi: Power Blackout in Kashmir; Thousands of employees of the Power Development Department have gone on an indefinite strike due to power failure in large parts of Jammu and Kashmir amid severe cold.
Around 20,000 employees of Jammu and Kashmir’s Power Transmission and Distribution Corporation, from linesmen to engineers, went on an indefinite strike against the administration’s decision to merge the Jammu and Kashmir divisions with the Power Grid Corporation of India.
The strike began after two rounds of talks did not end the deadlock. The protesters – who said they would ensure power supply for essential services – are protesting the merger with the central government unit. This was announced by the Jammu and Kashmir administration on 4 December.
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The protesters pointed out that in 2019, after bifurcating the erstwhile state into the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, the J&K Power Development Department was split into Power Transmission Corporation Limited and Power Distribution Corporation Limited for both the Kashmir and Jammu divisions.
A spokesman said employees of all unions and unions, from linemen to senior engineers, decided to go on an indefinite strike following their failure to negotiate with the government, and protested in the twin capital cities as well as district headquarters for the second day on Sunday.
Officials said the ongoing strike in several parts of the union territory led to a complete blackout, as a result of which people are facing immense hardships due to non-availability of electricity and water supply, due to which Jammu city and Angry residents protested in other districts. Those who are in the grip of severe cold wave.
The spokesperson said they had presented a four-point formula to the government, but it failed to accede to their demands, which included a white paper on non-compliance with the recommendations of the unbundling report and failure to create mandated positions by the committee. Gazetted and non-gazetted level, regularization of daily wage earners and all power development department engineers.
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“It is a systematic transfer of assets which we are opposing. They are selling transmission sector assets. They want to give 50% stake to Power Grid which is against the interests of J&K” said Mr. Sachin Tickoo, General Secretary Said of the Electricity Employees Union.
“This is the issue of our survival. This is the battle of the people we are fighting. If we lose the transmission sector, we will have nothing. This is the backbone of the electricity department,” Mr. Tikku said.
He said talks are on with the government at the grassroots level and no top government official has come forward to resolve the crisis and assurances that the power sector will not be sold to private companies.
National Conference vice president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah asked the government to leave privatisation decisions to an elected government.
“The J&K administration may be able to claim the constitutional authority to privatise the assets of J&K, but it completely lacks the political authority. Decisions of this nature with far reaching consequences should be left to an elected government,” he wrote on Twitter.
In a statement, Party General Secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar said, “Most areas in J&K are reeling through massive power outages over the past 24 hours as government has failed to negotiate with the protesting PDD employees. The government proposal of having a joint venture should have taken the concerns of the employees on board but they have failed to do so. Besides such far reaching decisions should be left to democratic governments to decide and take action upon.”
He further added, “A profit-seeking operation may not choose to provide us electricity to the poor at affordable rates. It might not provide health care and other employment benefits to the indigent employee, who puts his life at risk while ensuring round the clock electricity to consumers.”
The proposed measure of handing over grids to private players, Sagar said, is a step in the wrong direction. “At a time when our economy is struggling to revive, the GOI and JK administration are curbing the people’s right to energy. What is more worrying is that stakeholders, the local MPs, political representatives, civil society and employees representatives are not being involved at any level and the decision is being thrust on Jammu and Kashmir without any consultation. Local voices are not being heard, everyone has been cast aside. It’s all one way traffic.” (Power Blackout in Kashmir)
He asked the government to look into the demands of thousands of employees of the power development department in Jammu and Kashmir who have gone on indefinite strike against the privatization of grid stations. “The employees, under the banner of Power Employees and Engineers Coordination Committee (PEECC), J&K are demanding white paper on non-creations and regularization of engineers and PDL, TDL staff and casual laborers besides opposing any move by the government to privatize this vital sector,” he said.
The striking employees have made it clear that the repairs and restoration work would not be undertaken at all unless the feeder is supplied to any hospital.
Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari also expressed serious concerns over the indefinite strike in opposition to a government decision that intends to privatise grid stations. (Power Blackout in Kashmir)
“Over 20,000 electrical employees are currently on a strike due to which numerous areas across J&K are facing prolonged power blackouts and lingering of essential repair works. All of this is happening in the harsh cold winter season which is exponentially adding to the existing woes of the general public,” he observed.
In Srinagar, it is minus 6 degrees Celsius and it is freezing cold in many other parts of Kashmir. The Meteorological Department has predicted a further drop in the minimum temperature and snowfall this week.
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