PUDUCHERRY is grappling with protests, including road blockades, for the past two days as an “indefinite” strike called by electricity department employees against the privatisation of the sector has led to long blackouts. On Saturday night, as outages brought the people onto the streets, several Opposition MLAs joined them, raising slogans against the Centre.
Even as the strike entered its fifth day Sunday, the NDA government is seen to have completely misread the situation and is now struggling to resolve the crisis.
The trigger was a tender floated by the Puducherry government last week to privatise power distribution, essentially putting up 100 per cent of the shares of the company that handles distribution and supply of electricity in the state up for sale.
Over 20,000 Power Department employees, including engineers, decided to stay away from work. Since then, there has been no one to attend to regular services, including handling complaints of power failure.
Most of the ire is directed at Electricity Minister A Namassivayam. Namassivayam’s office claimed that they were on the job to resolve the crisis and that a 24-hour mechanism had been set up to attend to complaints while Power Grid Corporation of India had been roped in to calibrate power supply across Puducherry. “We have also recalled some retired power engineers to help,” an official said.
Like in other parts of the country seeing similar agitations, the Puducherry Power Department staff protests are being coordinated by the National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE), which claims to represent 2.7 million workers. Talking to The Indian Express, its national convenor Prasanta Nandi Chowdhury said the Union government had tried to implement a similar measure in Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Chandigarh, and failed.