Patients Gasp For Breath As Strike Worsens Power Crisis

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Srinagar- The indefinite strike by Power Development Department (PDD) employees has left hundreds of oxygen-dependent patients on edge and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who are at the forefront of supplying oxygen cylinders and concentrators to the needy are seeing themselves being pushed against the wall amid the winter of woes.

The augmenting crisis has come in the backdrop of Kashmir valley being plunged into darkness several times as the indefinite strike by Power Development Department (PDD) employees is proving to be one of the worst confrontations between PDD employees and the Government in recent times.

Over 20,000 Power Development Department (PDD) employees are 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.

However, this indefinite strike has perhaps come at a worst time especially for the patients who are currently on the oxygen support in the Valley.

Azhar Ahmed, a resident of Nowpora said that this standstill between PDD employees and government has compounded problems of the already suffering society.

“Due to overload, the transformer in our area died and since then I’ve been running from pillar to post to get the PDD electrician to fix it.” Ahmed told Kashmir Observer.

“I’ve two Covid patients in my family who were on oxygen-concentrator support but since the onset of this indefinite strike, the concentrators are no more functional and the only option left is using oxygen cylinders. But, the problem with cylinders is that they need refilling while concentrators work 24*7.”

He further added, “Because of this, since the last three days, I’ve refilled my cylinders about three times. If this indefinite strike proves fatal for my family, the government and PDD employees both will be held responsible.”

Talking to Kashmir Observer, Mohammed Afaaq Sayeed, who heads the oxygen unit of Socio Reforms Organisation (SRO), said that the ongoing strike by PDD employees has increased the demand for oxygen cylinders by 40 percent in the last two days.

“Since concentrators are no longer functional in several areas of the Valley, cylinders are the new lifeline for oxygen dependent patients but the problem with oxygen cylinders is that they need refilling.” Sayeed said.

“Even though we’ve enough stock of cylinders at our office, there are strong fears that if an electricity outage occurs at our refilling unit, then a crisis-like situation may occur which can turn fatal.”

He further added, “Till last week, our office closed at 5:30 in the evening but since this strike, we're closing at seven because of the growing demand for oxygen cylinders. This confrontation between PDD employees and government is badly affecting oxygen-dependent patients.”

Sania, a resident of Bagh-e-Mehtab said that this strike by PDD employees has only increased winter woes for humble backgrounded families.

“We’ve three Covid patients at our home who are oxygen dependent. Due to voltage drop, all the concentrators broke down. This strike has sounded a death knell for patients who are currently on oxygen support. An oxygen cylinder does not last for many hours. The situation is proving grim with each passing hour.” Sania said.

“Maybe, the demands of PDD employees are legitimate but holding people, especially patients, hostage has really given a bad press to this strike.”

Like Sania’s family, there are hundreds of people who are facing growing oxygen difficulties due to the shutdown of electricity in the city and beyond.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

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

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