Heat, power cuts and politics in Jammu

Jammu: A severe heat wave coupled with unbridled power cuts has raised tempers in the Jammu region and led to resentment against the Omar Abdullah government’s “step-motherly” treatment to the region.

Electricity cuts ranging from 10 to 15 hours have added to the woes of people in the Jammu region, which is witnessing a maximum temperature of around 45 degrees Celsius in some places.

City residents said the authorities are not paying heed to their hardships. They also accuse the Omar Abdullah government of discriminating against the region.

“The government is discriminatory. Jammu always gets step-motherly treatment. I remember the time when the chief minister dragged the entire power department to Kashmir in winters to restore electricity supply, which was damaged due to snowfall. Extreme summer conditions are worse than cold. Why is he (Omar) not taking any action now?” said Atul Sharma, a post-graduate student of Jammu University.

Traders, too, are feeling the heat. “Frequent load-shedding has nearly paralysed business and industry in Jammu,” said Y.V. Sharma, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industries here.

“We have done everything possible – from meeting bureaucrats to ministers, and writing to the chief minister. But no one is paying any heed to this grim situation. Now if they want us to go on strike then we will do that also,” Sharma said.

The frequent power cuts have triggered daily protest demonstrations by people in different areas of the region. Opposition parties are also not far behind in slamming the state government on the issue.

Addressing a public meeting here, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said: “In the scorching heat when the temperature is hovering between 44 and 45 degrees Celsius, people have to confront problems to get power and drinking water.”

“Official machinery seems to have completely collapsed because some areas are facing power curtailments for 16 to 18 hours and some localities are not getting water supply for days,” she added.

Former union minister and MLA Chaman Lal Gupta, voicing his resentment over the power situation, said: “It is intriguing how this situation mysteriously developed immediately after the ‘Darbar move’ (shifting of seat of government) from Jammu to Srinagar.”

He said the government’s “mismanagement, coupled with the regional bias, was adding to the woes of Jammuites and must be looked into”.

Gupta, along with six other legislators, was expelled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for cross-voting in the legislative council elections in the state. Their matter is still pending before the high court.

Panthers Party MLA Harsh Dev Singh said: “This (power cuts) is part of the government’s discrimination against Jammu which we are not going to tolerate any more.”

The officials in the Power Development Department refused to comment on the situation.

According to the department, Jammu and Kashmir requires 2,300 MW of electricity but the shortfall is about 850 MW. Out of 1,500 MW available, Jammu was being supplied only 600 MW, forcing long power cuts.

Power consumption ratio in the Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley is 40:60 while Jammu collects 66 percent of the power tariff. The Jammu region paid Rs.1,651.91 crore power tariff in the last three years while the Kashmir Valley paid Rs.1,061.95 crore during the same period, official data showed.

IANS

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