Worsening Power Scenario Triggers Stone Pelting, Clashes In South Kashmir

Worsening Power Scenario Triggers Stone Pelting, Clashes In South Kashmir

19 January 2014
Greater Kashmir
Khalid Gul

Anantnag: With no end to the deepening power crisis in Kashmir, protests against State government in South Kashmir have become shriller. While the Power Development Department (PDD) attributes the erratic power supply to overloading and pilferage, the residents blame the government for the crisis. Besides Islamabad, Mattan and Bijbehara towns, scores of villages in Aishmuqam, Kokernag, Achabal, Shangus, Dooru and Pahalgam are facing tremendous scarcity of power even as the residents hold protest demonstrations regularly to press their demand for proper electricity. Protests are witnessed regularly also in Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian districts. Violent protests broke out in Uranhall area of Bijbehara in Islamabad district on Sunday against the absence of power supply in dozens of villages for last three weeks. Hundreds of villagers today came out on Srinagar-Jammu Highway near Uranhall and held protest demonstrations. Reports said that the protesters blocked the busy highway for hours shouting anti-PDD and anti-government slogans due to which traffic was disrupted. Police later rushed to the spot and asked the people to disperse, however the protesters did not budge, reports said. Reports said police later resorted to baton charge to quell the protesters who retaliated by pelting stones. Several people were injured in the clashes. Greater Kashmir lens man Sajad Muniwardi who was covering the protest was also injured in the clashes as he was hit by a stone in his face. The protesters said that they were forced to come out on roads after their repeated pleas to the PDD fell on deaf ears. “We have been reeling under complete darkness for three weeks after the power receiving station Veeri developed a technical snag,” said a protester. He said that PDD has till now failed to repair the transformer of the receiving station due to which they were forced to come on streets. “Almost 10 villages of the area are being supplied electricity by the said power receiving station and are plunged in complete darkness for three weeks now,” said a villager Riyaz Ahmad. He said that besides Veeri, Nowbug, Kredzal, Kanderpora, Guri, Aader, Uranhall, Kanzigund and many more villages are without electricity. Sunday’s protest on the highway was not an isolated one. Similar demonstrations against erratic power supply were witnessed this month in Qazigund, Mirbazar, Kokernag in Islamabad district. Protests against PDD were also held in many villages in Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian, Tral, Awantipora and Pampore areas this month. There are many villages and localities which are in darkness due to technical snags in transformers and the people there too have been holding regular protests. The examination season is on and the student community remains the worst hit. Ghulam Muhammad of Bogund village of Kulgam district, who was part of a group that held protest demonstration against erratic power supply a few days back, was all fire against the PDD for failing to provide a regular power supply. He says his son and daughter are appearing in examinations and with no electricity their preparation is suffering while the PDD is least concerned. The residents of Islamabad, Mattan, Bijbehara, Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama, Tral, Awantipora and Pampore townships alleged that despite the areas being fully metered, the electricity is erratic. “Ten years back when the government installed meters in the town they assured us of uninterrupted supply, but unfortunately they are unable to provide electricity even for eight hours a day,” complained the residents of Islamabad town. Despite increase in power tariff there is no visible improvement in power scenario. The villages of South Kashmir are the worst hit. The villagers say that most of the time the areas remain without power supply for days together. “Entire village is registered and each consumer pays regular tariff. Still we receive negligible electricity. PDD authorities are forcing us to come on roads,” said Feroze Ahmad of Kokernag. In Ashmuqam, people are furious on the erratic power supply in their village. “We normally get electricity once a week and that too with very low voltage. Our ministers and bureaucrats live in posh colonies where they get special power supply. How can they understand our problem of living in darkness,” said a resident Shahbaz Ahmad. He added that the government should initiate measures like enhancing monthly power tariff and speeding up the registration process to ensure smooth power supply in the villages. “If people are not registering their connections or are not paying the bills, who is responsible? It is PDD, not the common people. Authorities should initiate strict measures to check these issues,” said a villager. A PDD official, however, said the power condition in the un-metered areas would not improve unless people do not shun the process of overloading. “We have more overloading. Besides, many connections are not registered. But still people resort to overloading and pilferage. In such circumstances how can the power supply improve,” an official said. Regarding the metered areas, official however said that the situation was not so bad but he attributed the power cuts to pilferage. “With the fall of dusk people indulge in power theft which is impossible for us to stop due to shortage of manpower in our department. If they continue illegal use of electricity then there is no solution to this problem,” said an official. Chief Engineer PDD, Bashir Ahmad Khan however said, “The protests at certain places in South Kashmir have been occurring not against absence of power supply but due to the damage of transformers and other power infrastructure in view of the heavy snowfall in the area.” He said that though they have buffer stock at disposal but due to the load in central workshop it at times takes longer than the scheduled time. “The power scenario has been otherwise better throughout the valley this year,” said Khan.