Divisional Commissioner of Jammu Raghav Langer has written to the Indian Army seeking assistance for the restoration of electricity supply following a strike by the electricity department personnel. “It is to bring to your kind notice that due to strike by Electricity Department personnel in the UT 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 said essential services by provisioning manpower to man critical electricity stations and water supply sources,” read the official communique by Langer today.
The army’s response on the matter is awaited. With the aim to facilitate consumers with alternative choices, the Centre on December 16 proposed to delicense electricity distribution to reduce entry barriers in the power sector enabling multiple distribution companies to operate in the same area of supply.
In the Union Budget 2021-22, the Centre had said, “The distribution companies across the country are monopolies, either government or private. There is a need to provide choice to consumers by promoting competition. A framework will be put in place to give consumers alternatives to choose from among more than one Distribution Company.”
Pursuant to the Budget announcements, the Centre held a series of consultations with various stakeholders including state governments, electricity regulators and industry players.
Around 20,000 power personnel, including top engineers and lineman, have gone on strike in J&K since Friday evening to protest the decision to integrate the J&K Power Development Department into the Power Grid Corporation of India, turning over assets to private corporations. They also want daily wagers to be regularised and delayed pay to be released.
Employees on strike have chosen not to do any repairs or maintenance until the government agrees to their demands. “We will continue our protest till our demands are granted,” said Jaipal Sharma, head of the J&K Power Employees Coordination Committee.
In the matter, Omar Abdullah, the vice president of the National Conference and a former chief minister, has encouraged the government to delegate privatisation decisions to an elected government. Further, according to an official spokesman, the government of J&K has had multiple rounds of negotiations with the power employees’ coordination committee, taking a sympathetic view of the problems expressed.