Srinagar: Residents of Nawab Bazar locality here staged protest against installation of Smart Meters. Over three-dozen protestors including men, women & children blocked the bridge leading to SMHS hospital near Nawab Bazar, resulting in chaotic traffic along the vital road here.
The agitated people braving strong afternoon sun gathered on the bridge while demanding that the administration remove Smart Meters which they said were installed a month back. With children & women standing & raising slogans against the government’s move, chairs were kept for aged protestors to sit & join the demand.
The protest was taken out around 12:30 pm and lasted till late afternoon with people pledging to come out again until their demands weren’t met. During this time, over 45-vehicles returned back from the bridge including three ambulances that protestors refused to allow through.
This is the fifth protest in the last five days against the installation of ‘Smart Meters’ in Kashmir. Prior to this, people of Hawal, Batamaloo, Chattabal, Umerabad and Sopore staged protests against the move.
As protestors at Nawab Bazar held hands to form a chain, children were ordered to gather pieces of wood with nails on them which were then spread over the parameter, exhibiting the seriousness of their demand, they said.
“Everyone here is living hand to mouth, we cannot pay the huge bills generated by these Smart Meters,” they said in a unified voice.
Citing inflated prices of daily essentials including vegetables, oil and LPG gas, they said it is impossible for them to feed their families and pay huge electricity bills.
Protestors said they would have never allowed officials to install these meters “but they did it discreetly leaving us with no option but to demand the removal of these installations,” said women protestors.
Asked if officials cut their electricity supply to suppress their demand, dissenters vowed to stay on roads for 24-hours “for as long as it takes.”
They said that before installing these meters, their monthly electricity bills were raised from Rs 800 to Rs 1380. “We were paying that without any resistance then why this injustice,” asked a septuagenarian woman as she sat on the chair with her fist held high.
While they resented the move, they said installing three meters for three families living in a single house is “sheer oppression to people like us who belong from the lowest strata of the society.”
Notwithstanding the continuous resistance displayed by the people from many areas of the Valley against the Kashmir Power Distribution Corporation Limited’s (KPDCL) move to install Smart Meters, J&K LG Manoj Sinha in a recent press conference said, “the consumers have to pay as per the usage of electricity.”
The LG had said that the government of J&K had been “incurring losses due to non-payment of electricity charges by the consumers making the J&K administration take a loan of Rs 31,000 crore from the centre in the last four years to provide electricity to the people of J&K.”