In Jammu and Kashmir, electricity is managed by the Power Development Department (PDD). The ruling government says all villages in India have electricity and most of the towns get 24 hours electricity, but what about people who are paying for electricity but getting power cuts instead?
Such is the story of Chenab Valley, which includes the three districts of Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban. These, and some parts of Reasi district, are known for hydroelectric projects. Given river Chenab’s rich potential to generate electricity, at least four projects have been commissioned and two are under construction. There is a proposal to construct several other dams at the river basin.
It is unfortunate that electricity is generated in Chenab Valley but the people of Chenab have been facing massive power cuts for the last 20 years. A local resident, Raja Irfan Wani, shares:
"“I have been in Thatri for 15 years and I have also spent 2 years in Doda city, but the power cuts keep getting worse and PDD officials have not been responsive in this matter.”"
Several villages in Chenab Valley do not get electricity at all. The question to be asked to the central government is that if electricity is generated by the power projects in Chenab Valley, why don’t its own residents get electricity? Getting electricity for 24 hours a day is far-fetched for us.
The schedule is informally called “2-2 hours electricity” which means electricity is provided for 2 hours and it cuts for 2 hours.
This follows for the whole day. People of the area seem to have accepted this schedule but unfortunately even this is not followed honestly. When it is time for electricity, it is provided only for 5-10 minutes while power is cut for progressively longer times, sometimes up to 3-4 hours.
Protests Fall on Deaf Ears
In my hometown Thathri in Doda district, the problem is not limited to massive power cuts. We also have a huge problem of poor roads that are never repaired.
The problem is worse in winter, especially during the snow. Instead of enjoying it, people pray for no snow because it causes long lasting power shutdowns.
We have protested against power cuts, demanded uninterrupted electricity. If and when authorities listen to us, there is relief for a week before it all starts again. Authorities are in deep slumber. In most cases, the PDD department doesn't respond to protests.
People from Drabshalla Tehsil in Kishtwar protested against the PDD department for massive power cuts in December 2019. I had covered this protest for JK Update.
Residents alleged that the PDD had been supplying electricity only for 10 minutes as per the schedule for the last two months. Unfortunately, no PDD official visited this protest. People even blocked the National Highway for three hours. Only tehsil administrators visited the spot and assured the demonstrators. Despite the assurance, the power cuts continued.
Last year, due to snow, residents of Doda and Kishtwar faced a two-month electricity shutdown. The PDD failed to restore electricity due to the non-availability of equipment. People paid Rs 50 per mobile phone in various places of Doda and Kishtwar, according to a Facebook post by The Chenab Times.
Pics Viral: Doda Hospital gets Rs 20 & Rs 50 Mobile charge for 1 hour in Gandoh Anzer Ayoob Doda : February...Posted by The Chenab Times - J&K on Monday, February 11, 2019
In December 2019, the PDD department increased the rent charges for the electricity.
"“The rent charges have been increased. Now they are charging approximately more than double. Even if we can pay the new rates, what about massive power cuts? If PDD provide electricity on time, we will pay it. But this shameless department is not bothered.”" - Yousuf Khan, resident
A PDD official from Thatri said that the reason for power cuts is the extra load.
"“The reason for the power cuts is the excess load, as consumers use heaters and boilers etc. Due to less manpower, we are unable to check the load regularly.”" - PDD official
While the PDD should check defaulters, the people of Chenab should use electricity responsibly as well. That said, cutting electricity supply to the whole town is unjust.
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