A nightmare called power cuts

With the onset of November starts the coldest season in Kashmir. People buy warm clothes, charcoal, firewood and other essential commodities because they know when winter arrives they are left to the mercy of God. No doubt people assiduously stock essentials and keep themselves geared up to face whatever the harsh season brings in. Yet there are certain things for which they directly have to rely on the Govt. and one among such needs is Bijli (electricity).

Without electricity life stands completely stalled. People here need it more than anything else during harsh winter. The winters in some countries are harsher than Kashmir yet it does not affect the life style of the people there in any manner. People live and do their business quite normally and enjoy the chill of the season. However, on a land which is famous all over the world as paradise on earth if anything torments people much, it is the electricity which affects almost all dimensions of life. Frequent shut-downs are creating problems for the students.

The curtailment schedule of Power Development Department (PDD) is an indication of step-motherly treatment given to the people of Kashmir. Though the curtailment schedule has yet not been issued. Power cuts are already in. People pay the bills on time and in return get most erratic power-supply which is worsening day by day. The schedule of curtailment is fine but there are dozens of villages where its supply is almost negligible. It comes for ten minutes and goes for hours.

One wants to know, why despite getting better in terms of production, the electricity supply worsens with each passing day in the valley. With the changing scenario, the supply should also perk up so that the consumers’ miseries are addressed. The PDD should remain prepared well in advance to tackle the crisis but how ironical, they always start digging the well when the fire is raging. If they know that there is shortage ahead they should take up the matter with the Govt. in advance.

What is most imperative at the moment is to minimize the hardships of the people by providing sufficient electricity during the winter.

If consumers are paying the bills monthly, why can’t the concerned department provide them the electricity they deserve? It is sheer injustice if a consumer pays above Rs.400/ every month as flat-rate to the department, and in turn the dept. fails to provide the consumer the electricity for the same amount. It’s the responsibility of the department to purchase electricity for him.

What sort of service is this by the way? One fails to understand. If a common man who lives from hand to mouth, toils tough and earns Rs.500/ only for paying the electricity bill timely, why can’t the department think the same way? A commoner, truthfully, fears the electricitybill more than the summon from a court.

The department should live up to the expectations of its consumers. Truth is bitter. This hide-and-seek of electricity is only in Kashmir. Go outside and see for yourself. Come Kashmir, the story is altogether different. Here the city to some extent enjoys the supply but gosh, rural areas have to bear the brunt all times! Low voltage aside, people in rural areas have now become accustomed to reeling under darkness. What then 21st century is on, they still burn lanterns and candles. In winter, people have to face all this? Either the transformers get damaged and remain in the work-shops for months at end or the decayed electricity poles fall down till the locals come out and help themselves up.

‘Why do transformers get damaged?’ Now, this question might be cropping up in the minds of my concerned officials this time who are reading this write-up. Let me answer them. They have been telling us (the consumers) over the years that the load exceeds in winter time as people are using ‘boilers’ to heat water. But answer me honestly, how many times you have chalked out the concrete strategy to stop this illegal-practice. How many times have you till today launched or done wee-hour and nocturnal raids to trap and teach the hookers a lesson? Not once. I don’t live in California, I am a villager. Truth is otherwise. Now, even if the department will conduct such raids to stop the power theft, It won’t succeed. You know why? Because its staff working on the ground will in advance inform the consumers about the teams’ arrival. They have got sold for mere Rs. 30 or 50. It will make your flesh crawl to hear that it’s these linemen who allow people to do the hooking and in turn receive from them Chai Pani. Shaikh Sadi Sheerazi here is quite apt; he says that it’s the handle of the axe  that helps the woodcutter to cut down the trees during night in the forest. Had there been no handle, the wood-cutter would not have been able to chop the trees down.

All of us very well remember that some years back when schools were burnt, teachers had to perform the night duties as chowkidars in their respective institutions for more than two months. When teachers, the nation-builders, could do that, why can’t the department of PDD get into full swing and teach the wrong doers a lesson. Once we will get into action, it will take us no time to separate the chaff from the grain.

J&K  has five hydro-power projects under National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) and out of total power production Kashmir gets only 12% and rest of 88% is supplied outside. The big excuse that the PDD every year in winter comes up with is that the water level in river Jhelum has gone down. Year after year the situation of water in Jhelum may go worse but that does not mean it will bother people during chilly season. The concerned dept. should reform the system and enhance its carrying capacity so that the supply meets the requirements of the consumers. If the requirement is more than 1950 MWs how can only 1250 MWs prove helpful. Kashmir, in my opinion, during winter needs more power transmission because here people face tremendous hardships due to biting cold. However, the matter of fact is that the supply becomes extremely low  during this season only.

Author is a teacher by profession