Powermen’s strike leaves parts of Chandigarh powerless for up to 14 hours

Employees are up in arms against the administration’s decision to privatise power distribution in the ci
By HT Correspondent, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON NOV 26, 2020 11:57 PM IST

Chandigarh residents faced the brunt of the one-day strike called by the electricity department employees as major power supply disruptions were reported from across the city on Thursday.

The administration’s Tuesday warning to employees against going on strike went largely unheeded with department officials stating that more than 90% of the field staff didn’t report for duty. Unions claimed nearly 100% employees took part in the strike from 11pm on Wednesday to 11pm on Thursday.

Employees are up in arms against the administration’s decision to privatise power distribution in the city. Already, nine companies have expressed interest in participating in the bidding process. Employees contend that the department is in profit and should not be privatised.

“In the absence of field staff, we faced severe problem in rectifying even routine issues in the power distribution system,” said an electricity department official, requesting anonymity.

The department received more than 400 complaints of supply disruption from across the city. “Though the exact number is still to be calculated, it was between 400 and 500, which is multiple times complaints received on a normal day,” said the official.

Major disruptions to supply

Areas that reported major disruptions to power supply were Sectors 8, 9, 18, 21, 28, 37, 38, 39, 43 and 45 besides the Industrial Area and Manimajra. In some areas, power cuts lasted for up to 14 hours.

Kuldeep Singh Gill, president, Sector 21B Resident Welfare Association (RWA), said power in the sector went around midnight and didn’t come back till 1pm.

“Power boxes and transformers of the electricity department aren’t guarded. Any of the powermen on strike could have sabotaged the units. Also if powermen were on strike, couldn’t junior engineers or subdivisional engineers repair the fault?” he said.

In Sector 39, electricity remained suspended in many areas for more than nine hours. Devinder Singh Benipal, general secretary, Sector 39D RWA, said: “Power went around 11am, and till 8 in the evening, there was no respite. When we complained to the electricity department, we were told that the problem can’t get fixed till the strike gets over around midnight.”

Business owners also faced problems in the city. Hot Millions proprietor Captain Mohanbir Singh said: “At our Sector-17 eatery, there was no power since 10am. Businesses are already struggling due to the pandemic. If powermen were on strike, alternative arrangements should have been made.”

Admn’s warning goes unheeded

The Chandigarh administration had on Tuesday warned the employees of strict disciplinary action if they join the strike. It had also said that the principle of ‘no work no pay’ will be implemented against the erring employees.

UT adviser Manoj Parida reiterated on Thursday that no pay will be given for the day in cases where employees abstained from work. On the allegations of possible sabotage, he said: “If such cases are detected, strict action will be taken.”

However, denying the role of union members in large-scale power disruptions in the city, Gopal Joshi, general secretary, UT Powermen Union, said: “Overnight rains led to faults at several places. With our members on strike from 11pm on Wednesday, these faults couldn’t be rectified. Hence, power supply was affected in many places.”

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