After four-day-long agitation as part of an indefinite strike by the Power Development Department(PDD) employees, the government agreed to all their demands. The protest was called off at midnight on Tuesday following the administration and union representatives reaching an agreement, and finally, power being restored in the Union Territory.
The agreement was reached between UT administration and representatives of component unions under the J&K Power Employees and Engineers Coordination Committee (JKPECC) led by Sachin Tickoo and Jaipal Sharma.
The development comes a day after J&K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha issued a veiled warning to the striking employees amid power outage. “If some people think that the system will work as per their whims and fancies, it cannot be allowed,” he said. Sinha also defended the administration’s decision to call in the army's engineering corps to restore the electricity supply.
More than 20,000 power sector employees and engineers of Jammu and Kashmir took part in the protest led by the JKPECC to push for their four-point demand. The demands include the shelving of a proposed joint venture between the Jammu and Kashmir Power Transmission Corporation Ltd (JKPTCL) and the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL); a white paper on non-fulfilment of the recommendations of the unbundling committee constituted by the government to streamline the corporation; white paper on JKPDD employees on deputation to CVPPL; regularisation and time disbursal of salaries.
The National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NOCEEE) conveyed greeting and salute to the electricity employees and engineers for their victory.
The NOCEEE said the victory of the protesters implied successful opposition to the government’s power sector privatisation move in the Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir. The move was initiated through the formation of a joint venture company with JKPTCL & PGCIL.
Earlier, the J&K electricity employees and engineers were under the erstwhile state’s Power Development Department as government employees. A few thousand daily wagers also on the government’s payroll and the erstwhile government of J&K had conceded to their demand of regularisation. “Once, the state was unbundled into two Union territories, none was there to keep the assurance. All government Employees irrespective of permanent or casual were placed on deputation to the Power Corporation without changing their status of Government employee,” the NOCCEEE said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Now, with the move for more centralisation, Power department, GoI, planned to cover 33 KV network of the country under PGCIL, a Government Company, under National Monetisation Pipeline. JKPEECC, the united platform of J&K Electricity Employees & Engineers could clearly understood the game plan of GoI, at the behest of Ministry of Power and Ministry of Home. Through this route Government employees of Power department of J&K will be siphoned to JVC (Joint Venture Company) and finally to private hands along with transmission assets of J&K. They decided to fight tooth and nail [sic],” the NOCCEEE added in its statement.
According to the NOCCEEE, the government had “declared war” against the J&K power employees. Since the start of the protest, the police raided houses of JKPEECC leaders Jaipal Sharma, Sachin Tickoo, and others. “As they were found absent in their homes, Police threatened dire consequences along with termination and arrest to the members of families of all the leaders of the employees and engineers. Army was deployed in all major power installations. They could do nothing. Participation of strike was total and 95% of line and substations became dead. Threat campaign on the part of the administration under the leadership of Lieutenant Governor, the puppet of the home ministry continued. But yielded no result,” the statement claimed.
The national chapter of the NCCOEEE had convened an emergent meeting on December 19 where it decided to extend solidarity to their J&K counterpart. Hence, on December 20, over two Million electricity employees organised demonstration in solidarity with the J&K power employees protesting privatisation.
As per the settlement signed between the administration and employees, the JVC plan has been abandoned. The administration has assured that regularisation of both engineers as per a 2019 government order and the temporary and permanent daily labourers would be addressed. The employees’ salaries would also be disbursed in a timely manner similar to that of other government employees, and required mechanisms to address the delays would be implemented. A committee would also be constituted to ensure that the JKPDD employees on deputation are not at any disadvantage.