Monday, May 16, 2022
Outlook.com

Jammu And Kashmir: Valley Plunges Into Darkness As Power Cuts Continue

Jammu and Kashmir administration has sought the intervention of the Indian army for restoration of power supply which has been hit by Power department worker strikes

Jammu And Kashmir: Valley Plunges Into Darkness As Power Cuts Continue
Indian Army helping restore power in Kashmir Twitter

Even as Jammu and Kashmir are plunged into darkness without electricity, in the freezing weather, the government, according to the striking employees, have shown no interest in resolving their demands.

“We are waiting to see whether the government concede our demands. If they agree to nullify the proposal of coming up with a joint venture company and assure us about the salary of the employees including daily wagers ad engineers, we will reconsider our decision,” says Sachin Tickoo Convenor of Power Employees and Engineers coordination Committee.

Divisional Commissioner Jammu Ragav Langar, through a letter on Sunday evening, sought help from the Army in restoring electricity in the Jammu division.

“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,” former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.

 

 

 

 

“77 out of 128 feeders functional now. 38 feeders made functional in Hiranagar, Billawar, Bani and Basohli since last night. However, 33 out of 62 feeder off in Kathua sub division. We are working for making them functional,” Deputy Commissioner Kathua tweeted. Jammu University has postponed offline and online examinations for undergraduate and postgraduate students in view of the strike.

The employees are accusing the government of privatizing the power sector in Jammu and Kashmir through a joint venture company and handing over the government assets built over the years to a private company. The employees held anti-government protests in Srinagar and Jammu and sought in writing from the Lieutenant Governor that it has shelved the proposal of privatisation and release salaries.

Sachin Tickoo said they had given representation to the government to fulfil their demands and had given it time till November 17.

“In J&K power generation sector has already taken over by the NHPC (National Hydro-Electric Power Corporation (NHPC). We have an investment of 20,000 crores in power generation in the Chenab Valley under Chenab Valley Power Development Corporation and the NHPC. And there is no involvement of J&K there in terms of employment,” he said. Tickoo says the distribution sector is being already pushed for privatization into union territories. “And now most safe sector that is transmission sector is in danger as the government is pushing it into indirect privatization,” he added. “There is a company named Power Grid Company. It has been asked to go for a joint venture with J&K Power Transmission Company, which is a government’s company. The Power Grid Company is given a 50 per cent share in the joint venture company. That means our assets, which we have created over the years including grid stations, receiving stations, will go to a private company. The government of India has spent crores in creating these assets. Now why they should be handed over to a private company,” he said.

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Jammu and Kashmir government has recently handed over charge of the power department to Nitishwar Kumar, a UP cadre IAS officer, who was principal Secretary to J&K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha. Kumar’s phone was unreachable when Outlook called for comments.

Divisional Commissioner Jammu Ragav Lanker, through a letter on Sunday evening, sought help from the Army in restoring electricity in the Jammu division. His letter to the Army says that due to the strike, the electricity supply has got affected in the Jammu region.
The divisional commissioner has requested the Army to assist in the restoration of the said provisioning to main critical electricity stations and water supply.

Both Lanker and government spokesman Rohit Kansal did not respond to phone calls.
The divisional commissioner Jammu and the ADGP Jammu met the striking employees during the day to break the ice but there was no progress in the talks. The employees sought rollback of the recent decisions of formation of Joint Venture Company called “JK Grid Company.”

Twenty thousand Power Department employees started a work boycott across Jammu and Kashmir to press for their four demands. They seek nullification of a move to merge J&K Power Transmission Company into the Power Grid Corporation of India and the handing over of the assets to a private company. The employees seek regularisation of daily wage power employees and the release of salaries. The employees, who are on strike from Friday midnight decided not to carry out any repair and maintenance work till the government accepts their demands.

The employees have, however, exempted hospitals, other essential services from the strike.
Sachin Tickoo, Convenor of Power Employees and Engineers coordination Committee and along with others while calling for a strike on Friday accused the government of not taking the employee representatives on board while taking decisions. He said they had already given representation to the government to fulfil their demands and had given it time till November 17.

“In J&K power generation sector has already taken over by the NHPC (National Hydro-Electric Power Corporation (NHPC). We have an investment of Rs 20,000 crore in power generation in the Chenab Valley under Chenab Valley Power Development Corporation and the NHPC. And there is no involvement of J&K there in terms of employment,” he said.
Earlier PDP, National Conference and even Congress would accuse the NHPC of taking over power generation in J&K. In 2012 the then Congress Minister Taj Mohideen had said, “NHPC is behaving like East India Company in the State. The attitude of the company is arrogant and they are contemptuous towards laws of the land.” Taj Mohideen was Minister for Irrigation when he took on the NHPC. Taj would even argue that the NHPC has no legal position over the power projects run by it in the J&K.

Tickoo says the distribution sector is being already pushed for privatization into union territories. “And now most safe sector that is transmission sector is in danger as the government is pushing it into indirect privatization,” he added.

“There is a company named Power Grid Company. It has been asked to go for a joint venture with J&K Power Transmission Company, which is a government’s company. The Power Grid Company is given a 50 per cent share in the joint venture company. That means our assets, which we have created over the years including grid stations, receiving stations, will go to a private company. The government of India has spent crores in creating these assets. Now why they should be handed over to a private company,” he said.

He said the government has done two rounds of casual dialogue. “We are fighting this fight for Jammu and Kashmir. The government is selling 50 per cent of transmission and grids to a private company. For the past five years not a single person from J&K has got employment in the power sector,” he says. “We have only eight people in the Chenab Valley Power Development Corporation,” he said.

“All employees from daily wagers to the chief engineer are on the same page on this strike,” he said. “We have asked the government to pass an order nullify this proposal of a joint venture company. We have asked the government to pass an executive order regarding release of salary to daily wagers and engineers,” he added.

However, the employees have chosen the worst time of year for a strike. Kashmir is freezing under minus six and various districts of Jammu particularly Chenab Valley and Pir Panchal are also reeling under a cold wave. The Covid patients, who are on machines including oxygen cylinders and concentrators are also suffering.

CPIM leader Mohammad Yousuf Taragami says the government must desist from confronting its own employees and should seriously consider the legitimate concerns of JKPDD employees on strike.

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