LARKANA: The All Pakistan Wapda Hydro Electric Workers Union has advised government to exploit the country’s had huge coal reserves and switch over to highly inexpensive coal-based electricity generation.

The union’s central president Abdul Latif Nizamani said at a press conference at the Larkana Press Club on Thursday that unfortunately, instead of relying on the vast coal blocks the country was importing coal from Australia and was planning to buy more coal from Afghanistan. What was the rationale behind neglecting indigenous resources of power generation, he asked.

He said that loadshedding was a curse which was affecting the entire country and expressed surprise that the government was buying costly electricity from private power producers at the cost of shutting down its own powerhouses in what was like putting the cart before the horse. The current electricity demand stood at 28,000 megawatt while the country generated 22,000 megawatt, therefore, shortage was natural, he said.

He pointed out 40 per cent shortage of labour in Sukkur Electric Supply Company (Sepco) which was seriously affecting its performance as the available staff had to shoulder burden of understaffing.

He criticised the government’s practice of collecting a variety of taxes unrelated to Wapda through electricity bills and said it was directing consumers’ anger to the institution and tarnishing its image.

The consumers’ anger over prolonged power outages was getting multiplied by recovery of taxes through power bills and earning bad name for the electricity companies, he said.

The union was contemplating to oppose the trend of ‘recovering’ multiple other taxes through energy bills. Why not the department concerned was entrusted the task to evolve a methodology of collecting taxes independently, he asked.

Nizamani said that on the one hand the present government had imposed ban on recruitment in Wapda while there were reports that in future all recruitment would be made purely on the basis of fixed pay. If it happened, the workers would not be able to survive on meager pays, he said.

With this approach, he said, the government would snatch away facility of social security from labourers and termed it violation of human rights.

He said that fluctuating policies for power sector had sent a wave of unrest through workers. The reports about handing over Sepco and Hesco to Sindh government were highly disturbing for employees, he said.

About global trends in privatisation of power companies the union leaders Iqbal Khan and Nisar Shaikh said that the strategy had backfired in the shape of upward trend in unemployment and nose-diving performance.

They said that the union’s struggle was linked with world organisations and “we are constantly watching, observing and analyzing the performance and operations of electricity sector the world over”.

They urged the government to establish a 500 KV grid station in Larkana and immediately upgrade existing grid stations.

Pointing out lacunas in the constitution of board of directors of power companies, they said the boards lacked representation from rural areas while the one who headed the board belonged to Karachi.

They opined that exiting skeleton of power distribution in Larkana had become old and required revamping the infrastructure.

Later, the union leaders visited Sujawal Tunio village near Bakrani and offered condolences to the family of martyred pilot Major Saeed Ahmed Tunio, who embraced martyrdom in Lasbela chopper crash.

They also laid wreath on the martyr’s grave.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2022

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