NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: Looks like there’s more than what meets the eye to the massive power outages that have left the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) crippled since Friday when over 20 thousand employees of Power Development Department (PDD) went on a strike in protest against the privatisation bid by the Centre.
Administration officials claim the strike is based on unreasonable assumptions and is instigated by political forces. “It appears that the script was written well in advance. Going on a strike, and causing outages across Jammu and Kashmir during winters, is aimed at putting people to discomfort when they need uninterrupted power supplies the most. Going by their logic, the doctors and paramedical staff should have stopped working at a time such as this when we are in the middle of a pandemic, so they could blackmail the government to ask for an increase in salary,” said a senior official who did not wish to be quoted.
The employees’ union Electricity Employees and Engineers Coordination Commission (PEECC), on Friday, went on a strike against the UT government’s decision to privatise grid stations. Several rounds of talks between the administration and PEECC members have not borne any result so far. “Power sector reforms are inevitable and policy decisions cannot be put on hold indefinitely. The employees should understand that their jobs are secure and they will keep getting their salaries without any break,” said a senior official.
Their metre readers are taking bribe of 5000-8000 per season for illegal Air conditioners. Their line men Take 100-200 everytime they visit to repair a fault at the pole. Now, they deliberately shut down electricity in few areas of jammu which is unacceptable. @JKPDD
— Yogi ji Fan Club (@Yogiji_Fanclub) December 19, 2021
Sources within the government say that there are no issues pertaining to the salary and the employees have been getting their salary regularly for the last two years. The steps to privatise the power department were initiated two years ago. Instigating other colleagues with imaginary fears that there is a danger of salary not being paid in the future, is the most unfounded ground to stop working and bring misery to the people during harsh winters.
Every Dept in JK is super corrupt. They resist every change suggested to clean the system. When nothing works they bring in “bahar wale aa jayenge” bigoted & illogical argument. https://t.co/2YPDfdb5Ve
— Manu Khajuria 🇮🇳 (@KhajuriaManu) December 19, 2021
Currently the temperature in Srinagar is as low as minus 6 degrees Celsius and several parts of the Kashmir valley are facing extremely cold conditions. A further drop in the minimum temperature is predicted in the coming days and the weather department warns that there could be snowfall in the days to come.
Earlier, the Divisional Commissioner (DC) of Jammu division, Raghav Langhar wrote to the Indian Armed Forces and sought help from the forces to maintain power supply, critical for running essential services including hospitals that are fighting to save lives affected by the pandemic.
The "Naya Jammu Kashmir" model in action. Army called in to restore electricity. Wow! pic.twitter.com/AzFPePdy1I
— Imran Nabi Dar (@ImranNDar) December 19, 2021
There were political reactions too, with former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah accusing the government of pushing ahead with privatisation of power, which he claimed should have been left to an elected government. J&K Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari said that the situation was grim and it may deteriorate in the coming days as both the administration and the protesting employees were not in agreement with each other.
The army has been called to operate the power infrastructure in Jammu division of J&K. There no bigger admission of failure for a civilian administration than to call upon the army, it means a total breakdown of governance has been accepted by the J&K government. pic.twitter.com/xEVPqF1adN
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) December 19, 2021