Kishtwar, Doda and adjoining areas of Jammu region have been plunged into darkness since the arrival of winters. The residents in the cities are grappling with the erratic power supply, while several remote areas have not yet been electrified. Winters are harsh in these districts with intermittent snowfall interfering with the daily lives of the people. Massive outages, extending for days, have forced residents to resort to candles and kerosene lamps. Not only that, with no proper heating arrangement in the absence of electricity, there is no respite from the intense winters for the residents.
This is not the first time that Kishtwar and its adjoining areas including Doda and Baderwah are facing electricity crisis. Last year too, a similar situation had occurred when the 132 KV line between Udhampur Sub Station of Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Department (JKPDD) and Dulhasti Project of NHPC (erstwhile National Hydroelectric Power Corporation) has witnessed a failure due to heavy snowfall. The irony is that Kishtwar is home to the Dulhasti power station with installed capacity of 390 MW to “harness the hydropower potential of river Chenab” yet it has failed to provide electricity to the people living the area. Kishtwar received its first snowfall on November 8.
Talking about the issues that the residents are facing, Awais Malik from Phagsoo village of Thathri tehsil, Doda, told NewsClick, “Every year, we face the same problem. We have electricity poles here but only for show. In winters, because of snow the connection is severed and we face power cut for 4 days or more, until they get it fixed. Even when there is electricity supply, we face power cut of about 6-7 hours a day.”
“We use gas and kerosene. We get wood as a heating arrangement and candles too,” he said, explaining the way they deal with the electricity crisis.
Also read: First Snowfall Brings Kashmir to Standstill, Administration Caught Off-guard
Around 43 kms from Doda, Dessa valley is reeling under darkness as nearly 70% of the village doesn’t have electricity connection. Sukhdev Singh, a villager from Dessa, told NewsClick, “There has been no electricity in the village since independence. There are electricity poles but they don’t work. There were three transformers but they have all rusted by now. It has been years since we have raised our concerns but nobody listens.”
“Power Development Department is on a visit. Yesterday, they entered our village. We protested in front of them. We were told that they will do something about it. But this is not new, every year we are given false assurances. PDD has failed to revive electricity,” Singh added.
Five panchayats of Dessa, namely, Sheinkly, Chakka, Kunda, Malam and Gramdi, are yet to be electrified. The residents of these villages rely on solar power in summers and wood, kerosene and candles in winters. In addition, the village lacks basic infrastructure like roads, health care and others. As per the daily Tribune, “Nearly 40 villages of Kishtwar and 61 hamlets of Doda district don’t have power grid connectivity.”
“We don’t know for how long we will have to protest. We don’t know when are they going to hear us. We have raised our children in darkness. Their next generation will also be forced to grow up in darkness,” he said.
NewsClick tried contacting the district collector of Kishtwar to find out more about the steps taken by the government to deal with the issue but couldn’t get through.