SRINAGAR: Kashmir valley is in the grip of worst-ever power crisis this year. People stage demonstrations in the nook and corner of the valley every day to highlight the crisis being faced by them.
Even political parties other than ruling party arranged protest demonstrations to draw the attention of the government towards the worst power crisis but the government, as well as Power Development Department (PDD), maintain silence as if nothing wrong is going on.
The PDD maintains that the crisis is population-made as they are consuming more electricity than they require. They insist that consumers should avoid resorting to malpractices to ensure uninterrupted power supply.
The PDD said there is no dearth of power. It is because consumers resort to unfair means which force it to resort to curtailment.
Why is electricity situation worsening?
“It’s actually a problem of supply and demand. We have same supply of 1200 MW that we had last year but the demand has increased. Joint families go nuclear so power consumption also increases. Unless we do not augment new power grids nothing is going to happen and next winter could be more harsher,” a top official in PDD wishing anonymity told Kashmir Wire.
In a recent appeal through newspapers, the PDD requested consumers to avoid misuse of power to ensure uninterrupted supply. It also threatened that it will exercise powers vested in it to carry night raids and impose fine on the consumers found guilty of using unfair means. People say PDD must move out, and go all out to arrest misuse of power by consumers.
The PDD has an army of employees, who, if they wish, can stop misuse of power by consumers. However, they are not able to carry out raids as they have their own kith and kin who have been given a free hand to misuse power, locals claimed, adding “friends and acquaintances of PDD workers are also liable to special treatment”.
“Some of them are getting a consolidated (or flat rate) bill of Rs1000 to consume unlimited power while a poor consumer is forced to pay a bill of more than Rs 2000 for less consumption of power”, consumers alleged.
They said there is another category who pay Rs 500 to the PDD and has to pay less than Rs 400 to the PDD for consumption of power unlimited.
Another category belongs to a class which does not pay to the PDD but consumes power unlimited as they are registered as “irregular” connections which are existing in large numbers in localities of the city and elsewhere in the valley.
One of the categories do not get more than Rs 250 electricity bill for a month as the PDD staff has instructions to keep their meter “blocked”, the consumers alleged.
A house owner in posh Rajbagh locality said he never resorts to hooking or other unfair means but gets a hefty electricity bill, but in his neighbourhood, a consumer resort to hooking and use electricity without any fear. He Pays Rs 200 to the PDD man and is charged only Rs 450 for the unlimited electricity by the department.
They said meters have been installed in every city, town, and village but for their own benefit, the PDD has categorized “metered” and “non-metered “ areas. While the metered areas are supposed to get power for 24 hours, non-metered areas are subjected to curtailment even during normal times.
In many areas, consumers said, hooking does take place in metered and non-metered areas but the curtailment is more in non-metered areas. It is a great injustice. The PDD should catch hold of the consumers who resort to unfair means whether in metered areas but not to punish consumers in non-metered areas for the sins committed by others.
With power situation worsening day by day, people have arranged alternate power sources like noiseless gene sets, inverters and solar back-ups to light their houses but those who have no resources live in darkness.
“There are more power cuts than scheduled curtailment announced by the government in November for the winter months across the valley, we are left with no option but to buy alternate power sources to provide light to our houses”, a cross-section of people told Kashmir wire.
They said the government has announced 42-hour power cut in non-metered areas while metered areas are scheduled to face 21-hour power cut during a week. But this is not so, power cuts are resorted to outside the announced scheduled also in both metered and non-metered areas.
People said the intense cold gripping the valley has added their woes. With no hope of betterment in the power scenario, the extreme cold has made lives miserable.
Similar or worse situation prevails in villages and towns in North, South and Central Kashmir.
Dilshada Bano, a resident of Baramulla town of north Kashmir, said they had to get electricity in the area. The power crisis is worsening each passing day, people are turning to alternative power sources, she said.
The hide and seek of electricity increases every time. This year, the government’s power curtailment is more than past because of low discharge of water bodies. From power gen sets to Inverters and solar backups, valleyiets are choosing from the range of options available in the market. The trend in markets shows people from rural areas opt for solar power backups compared to urban residents who go for battery inverters.
“Since the electricity is hardly given in villages, people buy solar panels because it requires no electricity to generate back up. But people from urban localities choose battery inverters”, says Owais Masoodi of Millennium Technologies, Exide distributer for north Kashmir.
Last year the demand was not as it is this year. Nowadays people want uninterrupted power supply. So this year we see sales have gone up, says Asim Irshad dealing with solar equipment in Sopore town.
Apart from battery operated power backups, gensets too are in demand.
Earlier, inverters, solar panels, and gen sets were used exclusively by people having a good income but with massive power cuts these devices have become a necessity since the households face power cuts for at least seven to eight hours a day, Dawood Ahmad said in Shopian.
Power scenario in four districts of south Kashmir is a dismal one as most of the villages and towns in Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian, and Kulgam hardly see electricity, especially during evening hours.
Almost 250 villages of twin districts of Shopian and Kulgam gets only two hours of electricity in a day. These villages receive supply from Lundoora receiving station in Shopian. Each and everyone complains that there is no power being supplied to the consumers in south Kashmir.
A consumer in Rajpora-Awantipora said PDD is playing jokes with the people of the area as power is restored for a few minutes before it is cut off. “We are waiting for the full day that it will restore but not at all”, the consumer Ghulam Ahmad told Kashmir Wire.
In Anantnag, the power scenario underwent a sea change as the civil secretariat moved to Jammu for winter months. Soon after Durbar moved on October 28, most areas in the district are reeling under darkness” the residents of the main town of Anantnag, its outskirts and other villages are facing a tough time under darkness amid the intense cold.
Similar is the situation in most of the areas in district Kulgam, the electricity is giving nightmares to the general public. It is being restored for few minutes but is cut off immediately, the locals said.
The PDD is playing hide and seek with people, alleged villagers of Dilagam, Kadipora, Mattan, Krangsoo including main town Anantnag, “People have to face prolonged power cuts everywhere,” Khursheed Ahmad, a resident said.
While common consumers including students from both districts of Anantnag and Kulgam are bearing the brunt of the unscheduled power cuts, the crisis has hit even the traders mostly.
The residents of Anchidora, Anzawalla, Aang, Matipora, Nanil, and other areas of Dochni Pora of Anantnag said that meters were installed by PDD with the promise that the consumers in metered areas will get round the clock electricity but the unscheduled power cuts belied the promise.
“We are paying commercial tariff but unfortunately PDD is resorting to unscheduled power cuts. If the problem persists we will be forced to take the extreme step of stopping payment of power dues,” residents threatened.
“The situation in hilly villages of Anantnag is worse with local residents having to reel in darkness for hours,” he added.
“They (PDD) don’t even provide power for a day continuously, neither have they found alternative sources to feed consumers,” an elderly shopkeeper said.