Jammu: Amid the uncertain situation in Jammu and Kashmir, engineers, technical and clerical staff along with power employees and Engineers’ Coordination Committee staged a protest against the Power Development Department (PDD). The protesters alleged that attempts are being made to privatise the Power Department without safeguarding the interests of the workers.
A few days ago, a notification was passed regarding the plan to privatise the Power Department in the state following which an order was passed regarding the re-constitution of Board of Directors (BoDs) of the J&K State Power Transmission Company Limited, J&K State Power Trading Company Limited, Jammu Power Distribution Company and Kashmir Power Distribution Company.
The notification and the following order has dejected employees and daily wagers, alike. The workers are questioning the non-transparency of the move by the government to privatise and “unbundle” the department.
Speaking to NewsClick, a protester said, “Privatisation will lead to hardships for workers and would also close options for government jobs in the future. Jammu and Kashmir is a disturbed state and in such a state, the interest of the consumers should be the foremost priority. Privatisation is also going to affect consumers and there are going to be many protests in the near future.”
“Since the BJP has come to power, they have been fleecing the common man. The rich are getting richer under the Modi regime and poor are poorer. This is Modi’s development model,” said another protester.
Protesters alleged that the future of 31,000 employees of the Power Department is at stake, as the government has not come up with the detailed plan regarding the transition.
Sachin Tikku, spokesperson and convenor, Forum of Engineers, told NewsClick, “Currently, there are 31,000 employees in the department. Presently, in the Power Development Department, all the budget is managed by the state out of the state budget. When it will be a company, all its expenses will have to be borne with its own resources. Companies could possibly increase the tariff. Currently, consumers receive subsidised power because cost of purchase is Rs 7 and we are charging Rs 3 per unit only because government of J&K and central government funds the balance deficit. Now, what will happen if the government support is not there. Not only workers but the consumers will also have to face the problem because they were also receiving subsidised power. So, that will also get compromised now.”
Explaining how the privatisation will affect the transparency of the Power Department, Tikku said, “The reason they are putting forward is that it will bring more reforms, private participation will come in. Right now, in the government sector, it is not easy for them to give contracts because there is a lot of tendering involved. Limited companies and private companies now may not go through that process. There was a lot of transparency in the government department with the online tendering and every penny is accounted for. But limited companies can generate their own resources from the market. They can invest and then decide the rate. Services may improve, but it should not be at the cost of the workers and the consumers.”
The ambiguous order has made workers worried about their future. A protester, on the condition of anonymity, said, “Our daily wager staff members who have been working for last 20 years have not been regularised and there is no plan for them. There is no clarity on service right. There is no detailed plan by the government about the structure after the transition and the levels in the department. What would be the seniority, promotion avenues in the future is not clear.”
Power Department is the biggest employer in the state. The employees alleged that with privatisation, their jobs will be at stake, as there will be no accountability. “They might not give permanent jobs, they can outsource jobs. There can be issues with employment and recruitment. It is a multi-dimensional issue. The government only wants to offload its liabilities onto some private firm in the future. That’s why they are taking this decision in haste and we are strongly opposing it,” said Tikku.