Winter’s Tale

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When PDP was in power through 2002-05, one of its major successes was to ensure a stable supply of power to Valley through winter, something that was never the case earlier. In the earlier term of Dr Farooq Abdullah, the supply through winter had reduced to a few hours and for a while the supply was even reduced to one hour day. But PDP transformed the scene. Soon after Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was elected as Chief Minister in 2002, the situation changed: Winters suddenly were not dark. His government embarked on the meterization programme whereby the colonies with 100 percent meter installation got uninterrupted power. Though people initially resisted the move, the regular power supply to the metered areas incentivized other colonies to follow suit. Subsquently, the meterization did pick up across the state. 

But in the NC-Congress coalition that took over from him, the power situation hardly improved. In many parts of the state, the situation went back to square one and people started recalling Mufti’s better governance record.  PDP’s emergence as the largest single party in the last Assembly polls, therefore, owes a part of it to the party’s record on a reasonable supply of power. But it is this happy memory about the party that is at stake this winter. With power cuts, both scheduled and unscheduled, becoming frequent and the government seeming in no mood to improve the situation, the people are feeling letdown.  

According to recent reports, the Power Development Department is working on a proposal to slash the power supply in both metered and non-metered areas.  The metered consumers would now face at least five hours of power curtailment daily, apart from the unscheduled cuts. In non-metered areas, the power scenario is set to worsen further, with PDD considering the increase in curtailment schedule to nine hours per-day. This is worse than last year when the department had enforced a power cut of eight hours in non-metered areas and two-hours in metered areas. 

This has caused widespread anger across Valley. In many parts, people are hitting roads and blocking traffic against diminishing power supply.  The Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies has asked the State Electricity Regulatory Commission to intervene.  According to the civil society group, the power cuts are a breach of agreement on power supply by the Department. The group has rightly asked the consumers “to pay only for the supplies they get than as per the agreement”.  

Adding to the difficulties of the people is the ongoing severe cold wave. The freezing cold is reinforced by the power shortage which happens to be nobody’s concern, either in the government or in the opposition, which only reveals how much this seasonal power crisis has become a naturalized part of our lives. So much so that the people have now grudgingly resigned themselves to the state of affairs. Government doesn’t feel unduly worried about the situation either. Though Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed recently directed PDD to ensure supply of power as per the schedule, little has changed for the better on ground.  This is something that people do not associate with PDP. People judge the party’s performance not against that of NC but against its own previous term in office. And the failure to match up to its own set standard will be  politically a very costly exercise for the party. 

 

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