Darkness descends on Kashmir

Adil Lateef
Srinagar, Nov 4: With the onset of winter, major power crisis have gripped Kashmir valley as Power Development Department (PDD) is implementing hours long curtailment schedule due to power deficit of around 400 Mega Watts (MWs).
Chief Engineer PDD Kashmir, Shahnaz Goni, told Excelsior that the department can only supply around 1200 MWs as demand in winters increases in Valley. “We require 1600 MWs but with our efforts, we are supplying nearly about 1200 MWs,” she said.
As the Government offices closed in Srinagar as part of annual ‘Darbar Move’ practice last month, PDP announced curtailment schedule and started its implementation shortly after the announcement.
According to the curtailment schedule, there is 21 hour power cut in metered areas in a week and 42 hour cut in non-metered areas. The consumers across the Valley complanied that the PDD is not adhering to its own curtailment schedule and is resorting to unscheduled cuts. The unscheduled power cuts have caused massive inconvenience to people in general and students in particular.
A Srinagar resident, who is a management professional, said the unscheduled power cuts have affected peoples’ daily lives badly. “After Durbar Move, the PDD announced power curtailment schedule. However, the department isn’t following its own schedule which is affecting our lives and we are not able to plan those things which are dependent on availability of the electricity. Everything has been disturbed,” he told Excelsior.
The bi-annual Durbar Move practice every year brings electricity woes to people of both Jammu as well Kashmir Division. While people of Jammu had to face unscheduled power cuts during scorching heat of summer after shifting of offices to Srinagar in the month of May, the people of Kashmir had to go through same problem in bone-chilling icy winter. None of the dispensation has so far taken concrete steps to address the electricity problem in both regions despite tall claims of increasing power generation in State.
Admitting that Power Department is resorting to unscheduled power cuts, the PDD Chief Engineer said that currently several grid stations are undergoing repair work to rectify big faults. “This is the time when we can go for repair work because we cannot do this in full winter then. Our Lower Jhelum is also undergoing repair work. So, this is why power supply is getting affected in certain areas,” she said.
The PDD Chief Engineer also blamed overloading for unscheduled power cuts and asked people to make judicious use of electricity. She referred to rampant use of heaters and boilers by people in winter season and said the department is bound to go for power cuts when overloading increases. However, the consumers in Valley argued that they are left with no option but to make use of heaters and boilers.
“Just like ration, the Government earlier used to provide firewood to people in winters but that practice has been abandoned. Those days, there were no boilers and heaters. Now people are entirely dependent on these heating appliances in winter. The Government cannot alone blame people but it has also to look inwards,” said 63 year old Manzoor Ahmad of Srinagar’s old city.
The PDD officials said that the ongoing dry spell has also added to the electricity woes in Valley as water level has gone down in rivers and streams. While power crisis affected almost everyone but student community in Valley are the worst sufferers as their examinations are underway. “Majority of students are currently appearing in different exams at various levels from schools to colleges to varsities and so on but power cuts have affected their preparations and increased mental stress,” said Humaira Jan, an engineering undergraduate student.