Winter Sans Electricity

AT a time when Kashmir Valley is experiencing extreme cold, the lack of electricity due to the indefinite strike by around 20,000 employees of Jammu and Kashmir’s Power Transmission and Distribution Corporations has plunged most parts of the union territory into darkness. The employees are opposing the administration’s decision to merge the Kashmir divisions with the Power Grid Corporation of India. Though the protesting employees have said they will ensure supply of power for essential services, the rest of J&K is largely without power. This too when you need it most.

Over the last week, the temperature in the Valley has dropped below freezing point. Srinagar is recording a minimum night temperature of minus 6 degrees Celsius which is 4.5 degrees Celsius below the average for this time of the year. The temperature has plummeted in Jammu city too. The night temperature in the city has dipped to 2.3 degrees Celsius  which is the lowest December temperature since December 28, 1998, when, according to records, the temperature fell to a low of 0.9 degrees Celsius.

The problem with the winters in Jammu and Kashmir is that the power supply generally goes down, due to the reduced discharge in the rivers.  The strike by the power department employees has only accentuated this problem. While, one can hope that the government will take immediate steps to address the grievances of the striking employees, leading to return to their jobs, the administration will need to do more to improve the power supply.  As has always been the case, the freezing cold in winter is reinforced by the severe power shortage which happens to be nobody’s concern, either in the government or in the opposition. This only shows 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  and government doesn’t feel unduly worried about the situation either.  And to top it, we also have the drastic power curtailment schedule imposed through a matter-of-fact government order with unscheduled power cuts to boot make the matters worse. What is more, the curtailment schedule is unfair and discriminatory in its implementation across the different regions of the UT.

One hopes that the situation improves going forward.  The real challenge lies ahead.  The severity of the winter will only increase as Chillai Kalan rolls in on December 21.  And the people will expect the government to be prepared for the next snowfall. One also expects that unlike many times in the past,  Power Development Department will be better prepared to deal with the  situation. The utility has usually been the target of the public vitriol, both on street and online for its inability to immediately restore electricity after Valley is snowed in.

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