Anger is brewing in Kashmir over a major power crisis. Most parts of the Valley receive less than six hours of electricity daily even as the mercury has plummeted to as low as -7°C this season. Frequent and long power cuts have triggered sporadic protests over the past two weeks. Residents have accused the government of “revenge”, saying they were being punished for the four-month-long protests in summer.
“This is the worst power crisis in more than two decades,” said Nisar Ahmad, a Srinagar resident. “We live in a metered area. Despite that we get electricity for hardly a few hours.’’
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The situation in north and south Kashmir is not much different, with metered areas getting less than six hours of electricity. “We get electricity for 15 minutes and then it goes off for two or more hours,” said Niyaz Ahmad Mir, a Sopore resident. “Over the last month, I have not seen bulbs glowing for more than two hours at a stretch. The situation in the non-metered areas surrounding us is worse.’’
A Power Development Department official expressed his helplessness, but added that they are able to supply power for almost six hours daily. “We are helpless. We have to properly distribute distribute what we are being supplied. While we provide electricity to one area, we switch it off in the other,” he said.
Shahnaz Majeed, a college student in Srinagar, said, “We are being punished for what happened during summer. If they (government) can supply uninterrupted power to Jammu and Leh, why cannot they supply it to us for at least 12 hours a day?’’
Minister Nayeem Akhtar passed the buck. “We feel ashamed, sorry but we cannot help unless the people cooperate and reduce the consumption, especially during peak hours,” he told The Indian Express. “When we were in power in 2002, we had promised round-the-clock electricity for metered areas. The people voluntarily came forward and there was discipline… But in 2008 elections, the slogan (of NC) was meter hatao, heater jalao (remove meters and switch on the heaters) and that culture was broken.’’ He denied allegations of revenge. “It is not only funny but also cruel,” he added.
In Jammu, the NC staged a walkout from the legislative assembly. “There has been no electricity in many areas of Kashmir for the last two to three days,’’ said NC lawmaker Ali Mohammad Sagar.
Deputy CM Nirmal Singh, who is in charge of the power portfolio, claimed that 80 per cent electricity supply infrastructure had been restored.