Amid Cold Wave, Outages In J&K As 20,000 Power Sector Employees On Strike
A major power breakdown amid extreme cold wave has pushed large parts of Jammu and Kashmir to the edge as thousands of employees of the Power Development Department have gone on indefinite strike.
Twenty-thousand employees are protesting against the government move to merge J&K Power Development Department into the Power Grid Corporation of India and the handing over of the assets to private companies.
The employees have been on strike from Friday midnight. They have decided not to carry out any repair and maintenance work until the government accepts their demands.
The employees want a reversal of government decision to privatise assets, regularisation of daily wage power employees, and the release of salaries.
There is a complete breakdown of electricity in several districts. The outage has also been reported in Jammu and Srinagar as well.
Kashmir is already facing long power cuts during winters because of the huge gap between supply and demand.
Since yesterday, employees have been holding protests in all parts of Jammu and Kashmir. From linesmen to senior engineers, every employee of the PDD is part of the strike.
Officials say negotiations were held with striking employees but failed to break the ice.
The employees say the assets built over decades by successive governments in J&K are now up for sale under Union territory administration.
“It’s a systematic transfer of assets which we are opposing. They are selling the assets of the transmission sector. They want to give 50% shareholding to the power grid which is against the interests of Jammu and Kashmir” said Mr Sachin Tickoo, general Secretary of power employee union.
“It’s the issue of our existence. It’s the fight of the people we are fighting. we will be left with nothing if we lose the transmission sector. It’s the backbone of the power department” said Mr Tickoo.
He said the talks with the government have been taking place at a lower level and no top government functionary has come forward to resolve the crisis and assurance that the power sector will not be sold to private companies.
The government has recently given charge of the power department to Nitishwar Kumar, a UP cadre IAS officer who is principal Secretary to J&K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha. Attempts to reach Mr Kumar didn’t materialise.
Ajaz Ahmad, Chief engineer power department said he has been talking to employees but so far there is “no headway”.
“I have requested them to call off the strike because people suffer during these extreme cold wave conditions: But employees refuse. They want their demands to be accepted” he said.
In Srinagar, it’s minus 6 degrees and several other parts of Kashmir are much colder. The Met Office has predicted a further drop in minimum temperature and also snowfall this week.
The political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have been accusing the Central government of dispossessing the people of J&K of their resources ever since J&K was stripped of its statehood and special constitutional position in 2019.