After a lineman tested positive for COVID-19, employees of the Power Development Department (PDD), Jammu and Kashmir, came together to demand masks, sanitisers and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits for employees.
"There has been a lot of panic since a positive case cropped up," said P.C. Sharma, trade union leader and President of the Provincial Electrical Employees Union.
In a meeting with Yasha Mudgal, Managing Director, Jammu Power Distribution Corporation Ltd., on Monday, employees protested against the non-availability of essential equipment.
"We deal directly with the public. It is peak summer and there is a power crisis in Jammu, because of which we have to attend to faults and consumer complaints. We do not know if the house we attend to, or that the neighbourhood we enter, is virus free or not," said Harwinder Singh, President of the J&K Electrical Engineering Graduates Association.
The PDD office at Canal Road in Jammu has been closed for sanitisation. However, the incident has triggered a sense of fear among employees.
"Last evening, we received masks and sanitisers but not PPE kits. We should be provided with a sufficient number of PPE kits so that we are protected while restoring faults in red zone areas,” he added.
Having received other equipment but not PPE kits, the employees feel that they are not seen at par with other front-line workers.
"We were ignored until this case came up. We demand that we should be included in the insurance package for the front-line workers as we are dealing with the public on a daily basis at a high risk of contracting the virus," said Singh.
On March 28, the Union Ministry of Finance had announced a Rs 50 lakh insurance scheme for front-line workers. "We demand that we be covered under the same scheme," Singh added.
The employees told NewsClick that they have also been working at the "front-line" and making sure that 24x7 power supply is provided to all hospitals, quarantine centres and to the general public.
"By and large, there has been no complaint regarding electricity supply. Yet, we are left unattended,” said another employee.
The employees also urged higher authorities to make arrangements at billing centres by restricting the entry of public in one go and the channeling of queries through the single window.
"Some mechanism should be created for the billing department which deals with the public. Timings should be fixed on a daily basis and alternate days should be kept aside for public queries. A plan for social distancing is also required," Singh added.