KARACHI: A protest against non-supply of water and electricity was organised by the Shehri Awami Mahaz (SAM) at the Indus Chowrangi in Korangi Industrial Area on Monday.

Addressing the protesters, Rehmat Ali of SAM said that the city’s first major problem at the moment was access to drinking water.

“Factories in Korangi Industrial Area have taken hundreds of illegal water connections while the residents of areas such as Sharafi Goth and other suburbs suffer without potable water,” he said.

“The elected representatives of the city do not solve this basic water problem. Their attitude towards the people is humiliating while the factory owners here issue threats to the people if they raise their voices regarding water theft,” he added.

Protesters ask authorities to remove illegal water connections of factories in Korangi Industrial Area

Comrade Gul Rehman, chairperson of the Workers Rights Movement, said that another major problem of these areas was the unannounced power loadshedding.

“Workers in these areas don’t have electricity for 10 to 12 hours due to which the people suffer from mental anguish. Many have also lost their jobs,” it was pointed out.

‘Privatisation is a complete failure’

Zehra Akbar Khan, general secretary of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation, said that under a well-thought-out plan, the working-class settlements were being deprived of electricity and water.

“K-Electric has failed to deliver on its promise to supply electricity to the residents of the country’s largest industrial city despite receiving state subsidies of Rs600 billion since its privatisation and even after annual profits of Rs17bn. It proves that the process of privatisation of public institutions is a complete failure. It is harmful to the well-being of the citizens,” she said.

Shabbir Khaskheli, leader of the Chashma Goth Welfare Society, said that water lines in Chashma Goth and other areas had been laid out but water was not flowing in them mainly due to illegal connections to the main pipeline.

“The people of the area, mostly poor labourers, don’t even get a drop of water. Due to poverty they can’t even buy water so their women and children beg for water from tankers passing through the area,” he said, adding that the storm-water drains of the area had not been repaired for many years due to which all the rainwater from the nearby hilly area flooded the streets and houses of the people of Chashma Goth and played havoc with their lives.

Call to reverse privatisation of KE

Abdul Basit Jagirani, general secretary of the Textile Garment General Workers Union, said that despite severe loadshedding, complaints of overbilling were common.

“At a time when unemployment is at an alarming stage, the rise in electricity prices speaks volumes about the indifference of the ruling [elite]. A lack of timely supply of electricity and water has made the lives of the workers miserable. The constant water and electricity crises have made the citizens both mentally and physically sick,” he said.

The protesters demanded that the privatisation of KE be cancelled, that its administration be placed under the democratic control of the citizens, power outages be stopped immediately, overbilling be stopped, and the extra money be returned to the people.

They also demanded a fair distribution of water and that industrial establishments involved in water theft be punished according to the law.

They also called upon the authorities to remove all illegal water connections while illegal hydrants be shut down and tanker mafia be taken to task.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2020