India: Power Breakdown in Jammu as Electricity Department Employees Strike Against Privatisation

© AP Photo / Channi AnandA man carries his son on his shoulders as he walks by electric towers in Jammu, India (File)
A man carries his son on his shoulders as he walks by electric towers in Jammu, India (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.12.2021
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Around 20,000 employees from the Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Department (JKPDD) have been protesting since 18 December against the government's decision to merge the department into the Power Grid Corporation of India and the handing over of the firm's assets to private companies.
India's Jammu region is witnessing a major power outage as thousands of employees from the Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Department (JKPDD) have gone on indefinite strike.
The strike was called by the Power Employees and Engineers Coordination Committee, an amalgam of all the associations under the umbrella of the Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Department.
They are opposing the government's move to merge JKPDD into the Power Grid Corporation of India and the handing over of its assets to private companies.
The JKPDD employees have decided not to carry out any repair and maintenance work until the government accepts their demands.
They want a reversal of the government's decision to privatise assets, regularisation of daily wages for power employees, and the release of their salaries.
Meanwhile, in order to restore electricity in the region, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has sought help from the military.
In a letter to the Department of Military Affairs of the Federal Ministry of Defence, Raghav Langer, the divisional commissioner of Jammu, shared that due to the strike by electricity department personnel in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir essential services have been severely affected in the Jammu region.
"We would like to hereby requisition the Indian Army to assist in the restoration of the said essential services by provisioning manpower to man critical electricity stations and water supply sources", Langer stated.
After the letter from Langer, the Indian Army has helped in restoring electricity in some areas.
Yet, political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have reacted sharply over the request for the army to assist in restoring electricity. They slammed the administration for its "incompetence" and the inconvenience people are facing.
Former state chief and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said: "The army has been called to operate the power infrastructure in the Jammu division of J&K. There is no bigger admission of failure for a civilian administration than to call upon the army".
"It means a total breakdown of governance has been accepted by the J&K government", he added.
The General Secretary of the People's Conference Party, Imran Reza, also added his voice to those criticising the administration, claiming that the strike has exposed its "incompetence and callousness".
"On one hand, the livelihood of thousands of power sector employees is at stake. On the other hand, the survival of millions of citizens of J&K", he said.
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