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Shivering in major power outages, Kashmir spurs kangri sales

A Kashmiri vendor sells traditional firepots known as 'kangris' in Srinagar on November 13, 2021.

A Kashmiri vendor sells traditional firepots known as 'kangris' in Srinagar on November 13, 2021.

Prolonged electricity outages have spurred the sale of kangri s, the wicker-covered, charcoal-filled earthen pot used for heating in the winters by people in Kashmir, three years after the government promised round-the-clock electricity with ₹35,000 crore investments in new power projects. Kashmir faces unscheduled power cuts of six to 12 hours a day in its urban pockets, with minimum temperatures already hovering at less than one degree Celsius in most parts of the valley.

Continuing to be popular with the lower middle class and in rural pockets even after the more affluent switched to electricity-powered heating gadgets, the centuries-old heating device now finds favour among all classes of society to keep warm in the bitter cold of winter. A kangri , which can cost from ₹250 to ₹1,500, depending on the intricacy of the work on the wicker basket, has become a barometer of the deteriorating power situation in the Union Territory.

Shabir Dar, 60, a resident of Sumbal, is surprised by the brisk sale of kangri s at Srinagar’s Batamaloo and its renewed popularity among all. “Earlier, my customers were mostly from the lower middle class and people from rural pockets. This year, however, decorated kangri s are equally in demand from government officers and businessmen. I am expecting over 200% increase in my sales, given the demand,” Mr. Dar said.

There have been complaints from rural pockets in north and south Kashmir on defunct transformers and the non-availability of electricity for days at end. Ghulam-ud-Din, convenor of the Civil Society Sonawari civic group in north Kashmir, says power supply is especially unreliable after sunset. “Non-availability of electricity is impacting the education of children, industrial units and the normal routine of life badly. What happened to the promises made about round-the-clock electricity?” Mr. Din asked.

Rashida Hameed, a resident of Hawal, said her area witnessed over 10 hours of power cuts daily last week. “Kids were not even able to take a warm bath in the morning,” Ms. Hameed said.

Locals in Srinagar accuse the J&K Power Development Department (PDD) of failing to stick to its recently announced power cut schedule under which non-metered areas were to face four to five hours of power cuts per day, compared with two to three hours in metered areas.

Rohit Kansal, Principal Secretary, PDD, in a recent meeting, alerted the government on the supply deficit.

Official figures suggested that J&K’s peak load touched 1,653 MW in 2021 when compared with 1,546 MW in 2020, stating: “Power supply to the Kashmir valley has been of the order of 5719.6 million units, an increase of 12% over the previous year.”

Official sources said J&K is receiving less than 1300 MW supply against the demand for 1653 MW. Supply can be boosted only when upcoming grids at Amargarh, Delina and Mir Bazar are commissioned.

Meanwhile, the Divisional Commissioner-Kashmir, has directed the police and local authorities to enforce a ban on the sale of crude heating equipment and called for their seizure in a bid to save electricity. “All the Deputy Commissioners are directed to ban nichrome [heating element] coils,” an official spokesperson said.

Regional parties have criticised the administration. “Frequent outages in rural areas are very concerning. Children availing education online are facing immense difficulties. At the same time, there are mounting complaints about heavy tariffs,” Peoples Conference leader Mansoor Sohrawardhy said.

In 2019, in a major announcement, then Governor Satya Pal Malik promised “round-the-clock electricity soon”. Then Union Minister of State for Power, R.K. Singh, inaugurated 15 projects to boost the power situation.

Earlier this year, Lieutenant-Governor Manoj Sinha signed fresh Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with a national company to attract investments of ₹35,000 crore for J&K’s power sector. He announced the addition of infrastructure for 3498 MW supply in the coming years, saying J&K is expected to generate 1856 MW power.

The MoUs in J&K, which is a water abundant Union Territory, are aimed to push the implementation of the 850 MW Ratle HEP project; the 930 MW Kirthai-II HEP project; the 1856 MW Sawalkot HEP project; the 240 MW Uri-I (Stage-II) project; and the 258 MW Dulhasti (Stage-II) project.


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Printable version | Aug 16, 2022 5:43:38 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/shivering-in-major-power-outages-kashmir-spurs-kangri-sales/article37474294.ece