Many Kashmir Areas Plunge Into Darkness As PDD Strikes Work

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Srinagar- Amid nail biting cold, several areas of Srinagar city and other districts have plunged into darkness due to an indefinite strike by thousands of Power Development Department (PDD) employees seeking fulfilment of their four-point demands, including shelving a proposed joint venture between the Jammu and Kashmir Power Transmission Corporation Limited and the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited.

According to reports, people in several localities shivered in cold as the electricity supply was either partially affected or witnessed complete black out due to snag in transformers and supply lines, a common feature in the Kashmir valley during winters as the power consumption rises.

The PDD field workers, reports said, did not repair the faults in the wake of a boycott called by the J&K Power Employees and Engineers Coordination Committee (JKPEECC).

Many patients, especially those under home quarantine faced a tough time due to breakdown of electricity supply.

"Since yesterday we have had no electricity. The 640KW transformer in our locality had a short circuit last night and since then we have been trying to get the PDD electricians to fix the line. But unfortunately, they're adamant on not fixing the line in the wake of their strike." Afaaq Hakeem, a resident of Baghwanpora told Kashmir Observer.

He further added, "We have dozens of elders in our locality who are currently on oxygen support. The families are helpless as they have been forced to rent a generator from a local shopkeeper for 500 rupees per hour. The Government should try to end this stand-off with PDD employees immediately, so that, amid this bone chilling cold, our patients, elders and children may not suffer further."

Like, Hakeem, there are hundreds of people who are facing difficulties due to shutdown of electricity in the city and beyond.

“The unscheduled electricity cuts and long scheduled power cuts have been a nightmare for my family which tested positive for Covid-19 a week back,” Seerat Latif, a resident of Bota Kadal, told Kashmir Observer.

“Covid comes with flu-like symptoms such as fever, cold and chills. In the absence of a steady source of electricity, it has taken us time to recover. Since the electricity cuts are prolonged, our backup sources are also not enough for those hours,” she added.

"I have covid and am extremely sick. It’s worse because my symptoms aren’t resolving as my room is extremely extremely cold. In the absence of electricity, I have found it difficult to recover", wrote Tawfeeqa a student from downtown in a Whatsapp message to Kashmir Observer.

Pertinently, in a move that deepened crisis within the PDD, thousands of employees and engineers across J&K went on an indefinite strike from Friday night seeking fulfilment of their four-point demands, including shelving a proposed joint venture between the Jammu and Kashmir Power Transmission Corporation Limited and the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited.

JKPEECC spearheading the agitation has also demanded a white paper on non-fulfilment of the recommendations of the unbundling report and the failure to create positions as mandated by the committee at gazetted and non-gazetted levels, regularisation of daily wagers and regularisation of all power development department engineers.

Besides, the JKPEECC has also asked for delinking the salary from grant in aid and releasing a regular budget for all PDD employees on deputation to different corporations.

President J&K Electrical Engineering Graduates Association and convenor JKPEECC, Munshi Majid Ali told Kashmir Observer that all the employees of PDD whether they’re technicians, daily wagers, need basis or engineers, are observing a strike across J&K today.

“The Government has decided to establish J&K Grid Company—a joint venture of JKTCL and PGCIL in J&K—where 50% of our assets including jobs will be handed over to the national company and thus we have decided to go on an indefinite strike from today,” Ali said.

“Earlier, the association had tried to talk to the government but they refused, leading to the failure in yielding any result to break the stand-off and subsequently, all the employees were forced to go on an indefinite strike,” he added.

Notably, last week, All India Power Engineers Federation had written a letter to Union Territory Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha demanding withdrawal of the proposal of formation of JK Grid Company.

“AIPEF is of strong opinion that the experiment of unbundling and corporatisation has already failed in other States”, reads the letter, a copy of which lies with Kashmir Observer.

The letter also warned of a work boycott by the employees and engineers.

“When our department was converted into a corporation, the administration had assured us that there would be a timely release of wages and regularisation of daily wagers but it never happened,” Ali said.

“Now that the administration is trying to privatise our grid stations, there is no way that we can believe that they won’t sell the grid stations unless members of several employees associations are not made a part of these meetings conducted between the government and the national Company. This will provide a say to the employees who are feeling unsafe and left out,” he added.

Members of JKPECC have also said that they were sent to the Corporation on deputation, but here they are not paid salary on a regular basis and now, when power grids are their only assets, the administration is selling them.

“We had already given enough time to the government but they are not ready to accept our demands which forced us to go on indefinite strike.” a member of JKPEECC said.

“If the administration calls us government employees, then why aren’t we being paid the similar way in which any other government employee is paid.” Ali told Kashmir Observer

He further added, “White paper of service conditions of PDD Employees on deputation to CVPPPL viz-a-viz the similarly situated employees deputed from NHPC and the complete management control usurped by NHPC is another demand”.

He further continued and said “The path of confrontation was being pushed by the government and unless it comes up with a concrete resolution, the PDD employees will be forced to proceed with a work boycott of all the repair and restoration works at 11kV/33kV/132kV, feeder no 11kV/33kV feeder.”

According to Ali, the standoff between the employees and the government has increased due to the one-sided approach adopted by the administration.

“This move will be opposed with all our might until the Government is willing to negotiate,” he added.

Pertinently, this isn’t the first time the PDD employees have raised concerns on alleged privatization of power grids in J&K. The employees had earlier raised concerns against the government’s decision of introducing a joint venture company, CVPPPL that was floated on the same concept of harnessing the hydro-potential with PDD being an equivalent shareholder.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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