SRINAGAR: With the temperature touching new highs in Kashmir, the electricity supply in the region is heading for a crisis, with nights in the Valley shrouded in darkness. Kashmir, for the past few weeks has been facing its “worst ever” power supply crisis in decades, as locals are made to bear the brunt of 12-hour unscheduled power outages with no respite.

Authorities blame the short supply on the “early start of summer” and the failure of hydroelectric dams to generate enough power. According to the Kashmir Power Development Corporation, KPDCL the electricity generation in April was between 900 and 1100 MW against a requirement of 1600 MW, a deficit that forced them to implement unscheduled power cuts.

People have been left in a state of limbo as a result of unplanned and prolonged power cuts during Ramadan. Frequent power cuts in the Valley have had a significant impact on students, businesses, and other sectors as well.

Sauim, a 20-year-old student preparing for midterm exams, has been unable to study properly. “I have exams in the first week of May. I try to study at night, but due to the lack of electricity I am unable to do so. I study under a flashlight so I won’t fail my exams,” Sauim told The Citizen.

Businesses have suffered greatly from the power disruptions. Sajid, who runs a photostat shop in Downtown, Srinagar said he has been unable to earn a living since the power cuts. “I haven’t earned a single rupee in the last two weeks. I have a family to feed. How will I do that?”

With no solutions on offer people are taking to the streets to protest against the central administration and electricity department. Even members of the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party protested outside the KPDCL chief engineer’s office for its “inability to deal with the situation.”

“They are doing it on purpose. During iftar and sehri [meals bookending the fast] there is no electricity at all. At the very least they should ensure uninterrupted power supply during the holy month of Ramzan,” Ghulam Nabi Lone, a native of Srinagar’s Kral Khud, spoke out.

KPDCL chief engineer Javed Yousuf Dar, however, said the crisis is pan Indian and that the department is doing all it can to address it in Kashmir. “This is the first year following the lifting of the coronavirus lockdowns. Industrial activities have restarted. Offices, schools and businesses have resumed operations. As a result there has been an increase in the demand for electricity. We are trying our best to bridge the demand gap.”

Dar claimed that the department was arranging for more electricity from the national grid in order to provide consumers with uninterrupted power supply during sehri and iftar.

Meanwhile, some resorted to Twitter to air their grievances with the electricity department.

Former chief minister of the erstwhile state, Omar Abdullah, told the media that electricity was being cut off during the sehri and iftar hours to hassle Muslims during Ramzan. “The power outage during sehri and iftar hours is done on purpose to annoy us. Do not play with our sentiments. Provide us with electricity at sehri and iftar and take it away throughout the rest of the day,” he offered.

Meanwhile, Valley residents have voiced outrage at the administration’s inability to tackle the problem. “We have been subjected to immense sufferings post the abrogation of Article 370. The current regime’s promised ‘development’ is nowhere to be found. We have never witnessed such power outages in summer,” said Downtown resident Ashiq Hussain, hoping that the crisis comes to an end soon and life eases.

The Citizen tried getting in touch with JKPDCL principal secretary Nitishwar Kumar and the executive director (electric) but they did not answer repeated calls.

Photographs Aman Farooq, Basit Zargar reports – “Power cuts in Kashmir are nothing new, but we have never seen worse and such frequent cuts especially during sehri and iftar. I hope the Lt Governor’s administration will ensure electricity at least now for the last 10 days of Ramzan,” said Srinagar resident Amin Mohammad. Scores of women staged a protest in the Gawkadal locality against the administration’s failure to provide scheduled power supply. Similar protests have been witnessed in other parts of Kashmir over the past week as villages and towns face power cuts of more than 12 hours each day with the situation no better in the capital city. Officials say people should brace for more power outages as an electricity crisis has gripped many states due to a shortage of coal. Jammu Kashmir generates more hydroelectricity than any other state except Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.