Dark Times: Power Cuts Getting Worse in Kashmir This Winter

As unscheduled and prolonged power cuts have darkened the valley this early winter, the chief engineer of the power department says the fresh curtailment schedule, with lesser cuts than previous year, will be issued within three days.

IT’S becoming frustrating for someone like Mushtaq Shah to operate his power loom these days, as the unscheduled power cuts make it impossible.

But Shah is not alone.

After facing pathological spring and summer, Kashmiris are now facing dark winter.

The people are up in arms against the Power Development Department (PDD)—responsible for transmission and distribution of electricity in the valley—for failing to provide adequate power supply during the early phase of winter.

With the onset of winter, the demand for power supply grows as most of the households use heat blowers, power blankets, heaters, geysers, and other warming devices that run on electricity.

However, the unscheduled power cuts have become synonym to Darbar move in Kashmir, with people alleging that the electricity is being diverted to Jammu to “keep the babus warm”.

Every October, the Jammu and Kashmir administration shuts its offices in the summer capital of Srinagar to move to the winter capital of Jammu, a process anachronistically referred to as “the darbar move”.

With this archaic power shift practice, electricity cuts inevitably grow longer in Kashmir.

“Since the existing grid infrastructure in the Valley can handle only 1250 MW, power woes are likely to worsen in the days to come if people won’t stop overloading,” said a PDD official.

Apart from summer capital, reports coming from Kashmir countryside regarding the power cuts are grim. Most of the areas, on an average, face 5 to 7 hours of power cut daily.

“It’s getting worse this winter,” Mohammad Nazir Bhat, a resident of Pulwama, said. “This has never happened before.”

PDD, Bhat said, has miserably failed to provide the adequate power supply this winter.

“We’re even fed-up coming on roads to protest against the power shortage every other day now,” he said.

Pesky Power

As per the schedule issued earlier this month, the PDD had stated that there will be only two to three-hour daily curtailment in metered areas and three to four-hour curtailment in non-metered areas.

However, people in Kashmir, especially in Srinagar, allege that they’re facing “worst ever power crisis” in the years.

The consumers in metered areas also complained about pesky power cuts ranging from four to five hours.

They said the authorities instead of providing round the clock power supply to metered areas resorts to unscheduled power cuts sans any official schedule.

A top official from Kashmir Power Distribution Corporation Limited (KPDCL) told Kashmir Observer that in this year, they’ve a curtailment of three hours in force, distributed in 3 slots, as compared to a curtailment of six hours in last winter in Srinagar.

He said the PDD this year has supplied 9 percent more energy in September and 10 percent more in October compared to last year.

“In the current month of November, we’ve supplied 38 percent more energy to the system compared to last year upto 24 November,” he said.

Earlier, Rohit Kansal, the Principal Secretary to Government, J&K Power Development Department, in a response to a tweet, regarding the power crisis said, “Already we have supplied 12% more power this year so far as compared with last year…damage rate too much less than last year…if this is “worst”, don’t understand what is good.”

According to official data, there are 10 lakh consumers registered with the PDD in the Valley. The region witnesses a 10-12% increase in power demand annually.

These days, a PDD official said, the peak demand sometimes touches 1900 MW, but the availability is only 1250 MW.

Covid Crisis

This year, many fear, power cuts may also prove fatal for Covid-19 patients who are on oxygen support at their homes.

In wake of pandemic COVID-19, people have expressed their concern for inadequate power supply for the patients who are on power-driven oxygen support.

“My uncle, who was declared COVID-19 positive last month, grapples with breathlessness,” said Junaid Parveez, a resident of Bandipora.

“Unfortunately, unscheduled power cuts often render the machine useless. This is posing a grave risk to his life.”

He noted that oxygen concentrators that require electricity to run will almost become useless in winter.

An Unending Demand

However, Chief Engineer, Kashmir Power Distribution Corporation (KPDC), Aijaz Ahmed Dar, said there is an unending demand for power supply in wake of COVID-19.

“Otherwise we are providing 1500 MW of power supply in comparison to 1200 MW last year,” Dar told Kashmir Observer.

“Upto October there was no curtailment because we ensured power supply keeping in view of the pandemic, but as the winter chill increases there was a lot of load on feeders.”

Amid Covid-19, people prefer to stay in separate rooms with separate heating gadgets, Dar said.

“Since this was not the case in previous winters, still we are trying our best, but the demand of power is over 2100 MW, when we have capacity of over 1500 MW only.”

Dar said the daily curtailment schedule in non-metered areas will be increased to 7.5 hours, adding that in the metered areas, it will be increased to 4.5 hours.

“But from last 3-4 days there were some technical glitches due to which the schedule was not being followed,” Dar said.

“However everything is going fine as of now. The fresh curtailment schedule, with lesser power cuts than previous year, will be issued within three days.”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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