Power Privatisation: India's Chandigarh Faces Electricity Outage as Employees Observe 3-Day Strike

© AP Photo / Channi AnandAn Indian electricity department worker climbs on a pole to fix power lines as monsoon clouds gather above in Jammu, India, Sunday, July 18, 2021
An Indian electricity department worker climbs on a pole to fix power lines as monsoon clouds gather above in Jammu, India, Sunday, July 18, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.02.2022
The UT Powermen Union, also known as the Chandigarh UT Powermen, called for a 72-hour protest starting Monday night against privatisation of the electricity department. The union further warned of going on an indefinite strike if their concerns goes unanswered.
As India's Chandigarh witnessed a more than 12-hour power outage, the city's administration invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) late Tuesday night as per which no category of employee is permitted to protest for the next six months.
ESMA allows the administration to force employees to return to work.
The order came after more than 1,000 employees in the city started their protest at 11 p.m. on Monday, which is set to continue until Thursday.
During this time, employees are to unavailable for repairs and maintenance or addressing public grievances due to power disruptions.

Speaking with Sputnik, Nitin Vora, a resident of the city's Kishangarh area said: "It has been more than 15 hours without power. It's just not about electricity, water supply is also connected with power and other basic requirements".

He said he has been calling the electricity department since morning, "but no one is answering".
The power outage affects residents' lives, industrial production, virtual hearings in courts, shopping malls, and government offices. It has also adversely affected all elective surgeries at government hospitals.
Chandigarh's most affected places include Sectors 20, 21, 35, 39, 41 to 49, and 63, as well as areas like Manimajra Kishangarh. These areas have reported power outages either since Monday 11 p.m. or early Tuesday morning. As of Wednesday morning (7:00 a.m.) electricity was yet to be restored.
Other areas also reported electricity disruptions for 6-8 hours. But at some places it was restored late Tuesday evening.
Speaking with Sputnik, Gopal Dutt Joshi, general secretary of UT Powermen, questioned the need for privatisation because the electricity department is already providing around-the-clock electricity in the city.

"The step is neither good for residents nor for employees. To earn a profit, private companies will reduce staff and increase the work burden on us. Similarly, they will raise power tariffs", he said.

Joshi claimed both national and state-level employee unions, political parties, and resident associations were also supporting their protest.
"The strike was earlier declared two months ago, at that time, the administration had assured us to resolve the issue. But, so far, nothing has been done", he added.
The Union Territory of Chandigarh is likely to hand over the power utility to private hands by the end of March.
Meanwhile, as the outages continued, the city's power demand took a sharp plunge from the daily average of 260MW to 90MW at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
Charanjit Dixit, a retail store owner in the Sector 44 area, said: "Although we have investors, they too ran out of battery after six hours. Now, dairy items like milk, ice cream, meat, etc. have been spoiled".
"Every shop faces some issues — medical shops are complaining about the medicines that need to be stored at cold temperature", he added.
The Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Sector 32, and Government Multi Speciality Hospital (GMSH), Sector 16, suspended all elective surgeries for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Amid the power outages, even traffic lights in many areas stopped functioning.
Naveen Manglani, the president of the Chamber of Chandigarh Industries, told the media on Tuesday that it reported a loss of approximately INR 650 million ($8 million) and demanded a month's waiver on electricity bills as compensation.
Gopal Dutt Joshi of the UT Powermen stated that the union's representative held a meeting with the city administration on Tuesday. But the matter remained unresolved.
However, the union (as of the time of publication) had not announced that it was calling off the strike and returning to work.
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