KARACHI: While protesting workers of the power utility continued to virtually besiege a roundabout near the Governor`s House against a possible retrenchment, residents of Akhtar Colony and neighbouring areas marching against unattended power faults on Korangi Road turned violent and hurled stones at moving vehicles on Tuesday.
Furious at the power utility over its failure to fix the faults, the marchers blocked the thoroughfare with burning tyres and shouted slogans against the Karachi Electric Supply Company.
The demonstrations staged by the consumers and protesting workers of the KESC caused a massive traffic jam in the entire district south of the city and its spillover effect was also felt in other districts.
In an attempt to clear Korangi Road, police fired teargas shells and baton-charged the marchers to disperse the angry crowd.
However, the KESC labour union, which had last week decided to stage a sit-in near the Governor`s House besides the head offices to press for the acceptance of their demands, continued their protest without facing any hindrance.
They had occupied Fawwara Chowk and parked trucks to block its link roads.
Owing to their protest, gridlock was reported from the port area to the downtown and other localities. Once again ambulance service found it difficult to do its job as it could not make way through almost standstill bumper-to-bumper traffic. Commuters lost their temper at many places while the owners of two fuel stations at Fawwara Chowk were not only apprehensive about security of their property, but were also complaining about the threatening attitude of the protesting workers. Because of their sit-in, those in need of gas or petrol could not make it to the fuel stations.
However, the protesting workers said the ‘stubborn attitude of the management’ and its decision to sack the non-core employees if they did not accept the Voluntary Separation Scheme was causing an anarchy-like situation in the city.
The protesting workers and management of the KESC as well as the provincial government came under strong criticism for causing losses to traders in Saddar and massive problems to office-goers and other commuters on a daily basis.
Outages at hospital
While people across the city have been suffering long hours of loadshedding, the Sindh Government Services Hospital that earlier was exempt from outages too experienced power failures on Tuesday. Due to the power outages, dozens of operations were deferred.
Residents of Federal B Area, block 10, complained they were experiencing prolonged loadshedding while the KESC management was not attending to the faults. They also complained about the frequent shifting of the complaint centre in the area.
However, the KESC management demanded that all repair vehicles in the possession of the defunct union needed to be returned immediately so that local faults could be repaired on time.
The power utility questioned the relaxed handling by the government and law-enforcement agencies of the “labour union`s illegal, militant and subversive campaign against the power supply system of the metropolis”.
Condemning the union’s ‘sabotage’ activities which have continued for the last two months, the KESC management asked the government to take serious note of the union’s latest threat to allegedly force a blackout in Karachi and enforce law to pre-empt any such attempt, which could jeopardise city life.
The protesting workers rejected the management`s allegation that workers planned a forced blackout in the city. In fact, they alleged, it was the management that had deprived the people of the much-needed power supply on the pretext of gas and oil shortage.
The KESC demanded that the authorities take strict action against the union`s siege at all public dealing and operation offices of the utility including head office, load dispatch centre, transformers workshop and above all the central stores.
According to a KESC spokesperson, hundreds of “union miscreants” surrounded the central stores to block release of equipment used for maintenance of local faults. The management said that when media teams reached the place, they were manhandled and their camera was snatched to pre-empt filming of the illegal occupation of the central stores.
The KESC alleged that a group of ‘union hooligans’ also attacked IBC Korangi and threatened the employees present there to stop working and vacate the place.
The power utility said it appeared as if the authorities had granted total clemency to the defunct union`s unlawful and subversive tactics, which was giving tough time not only to the power utility but the whole population of Karachi. Even the clear and direct orders of the Sindh High Court had not been implemented in terms of providing due protection and security to KESC employees and assets, which amounted to contempt of court, the KESC said.
The KESC apprehended that the government`s negligence towards strong arm tactics exercised on the excuse of labour issues on part of the labour union could strengthen extremism prevailing in society. However, the KESC management did not explain as to why it was not fulfilling its own contractual responsibility by increasing its own power generation.