Power Rage Sparks Valley-Wide Protests

Srinagar, Dec 30: For the second consecutive day, massive valley-wide protests broke out Friday to express a sense of popular indignation and rage against the unwarranted, drastic and discriminatory power curtailment schedule being enforced since Monday, even as a petition filed by the civil society is pending decision before State Electricity Regulatory Commission.

According to reports thousands of people, including a large number of women, poured into the Srinagar – Bandipore highway at Sadarkut Balla this morning and, chanting anti-government and anti-PDD slogans, disrupted movement of vehicles for several hours. As a result, hundreds of vehicles, including passenger buses and load carriers, were stranded amid chaos and distress.

“The insensitive government is totally unconcerned as thousands of households face hardships for want of power during the freezing cold. Instead of setting his own house in order, the chief minister, Omar Abdullah, has failed to solve the crisis,” the protesters alleged, adding the Power Development Department was squarely responsible for precipitating the crisis.

They blamed the PDD authorities for their total failure to curb “power theft and meter tampering,” something in which their own staff were in league. “Because the chief minister is helpless before the PDD officials, his government has thrust harsh and valley-specific power cuts,” they said. The protesters lifted their dharna after the local officials assured them of early redress.

Reports from Handwara said villagers of Kralagund, Maidan Chogal and Vodhpora besides the main town staged massive protests against the non-availability of electricity which had crippled social and economic life in the area. Thousands of villagers, including hundreds of women, from Kralagund and Maidan Chogal marched up to local receiving station and locked it up as a mark of protest, threatening to block its functionaries in case the situation did not improve.

“Although meters were installed in our village five months ago, no power was supplied to us. When a deputation of people approached the executive engineer, he feigned ignorance about the meters having been installed in the village,” the protesters from Kralagund told reporters.

Similarly, the protesters from Maidan Chogal said, the PDD officials had assured them of uninterrupted power supply after meter installation. “The department backtracked on its assurance saying regular power supply would take at least one month,” they alleged. The newly elected sarpanch of Kralagund, Bashir Ahmad Mir, even met the superintending engineer, PDD, to warn him against continued failure in power supply.

At Vodhpora, hundreds of people, including women, squatted on the Sopore – Kupwara highway disrupted vehicular traffic for several hours. Voicing concern over worsening power situation, independent MLA, Langate, Engineer Abdul Rasheed, later persuaded the protesters to disperse peacefully.

Reports from a remote village, Chandaji, 15 km from Bandipore, said hundreds of people staged protest for several hours against non-availability of power. “Even in 21st century, our village has no electricity. The PDD has failed even to lay transmission lines to the village because of which we have to use kerosene lamps to lit up homes,” they said.

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