Tempers fray as electricity protesters block motorway near Gojra

Published August 29, 2023
Transpersons protest against the inflated electricity bills in front of the Lahore Press Club. — White Star
Transpersons protest against the inflated electricity bills in front of the Lahore Press Club. — White Star

LAHORE: As the tempers are getting frayed against the soaring cost of electricity by the day across Punjab, the protesters blocked M-4 between Gojra and Toba Tek Singh and kept it blocked for traffic for two hours on Monday.

The public protests against the exorbitant electricity bills continued in various cities across Punjab, including Lahore, Bahawalpur, Toba Tek Singh, Okara, Mianwali, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan and Lodhran, besides other major and small cities across the province. A number of people, including women and children, participated in the demonstrations against the government for the unjustified hikes in bills, pressing the caretaker government to withdraw the recent hikes in the power tariff as well as imposition of extra taxes.

In Lahore, the protesters held rallies at Manga Mandi, Samanabad, Mall Road, Walton Road, Wahdat Road and other localities.

Demos continue against inflated bills across Punjab

During the demonstrations, the people blocked roads and set the bills on fire, refusing to pay the bills. They warned the government to immediately withdraw the decision failing which they would have no option but to launch a civil disobedience movement.

“There are fewer options left for us in the bad financial crunch we have been passing through for the last 4/5 years. In such a limited salary, how can we pay pills equaling our salary?” asked a protester at Manga Mandi. “We reject this surge in power bills and we will never pay such inflated bills,” he declared.

A similar protest was organised by the Town Employees Union (CBA) at Town Hall, Mall Road. The workers chanted slogans against the government for crushing the lower middle class by accepting every demand of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They said most low-grade employees had received bills up to Rs15,000 whereas their salary ranged between Rs30,000 to 40,000 per month.

“If we pay power bills, how will we pass the entire month? Therefore, we are unable to pay these inflated bills,” said a worker while chanting slogans against the government. He said the government should give some relief to the poor rather than crushing them economically through inflated bills.

Various organisations, including the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI), expressed concerns at the situation due to the raised cost of electricity and skyrocketing prices of other commodities.

“We urge the government to cut the electricity prices; otherwise, the situation can be a precursor to civil disobedience,” warned LCCI President Kashif Anwar in a statement on Monday.

He lamented that instead of stopping provision of free electricity to various public sector departments and their employees and controlling electricity theft, the government had increased the electricity tariff, which was unjust. He said the majority of people had been sent bills many times more than their monthly income.

Mr Kashif demanded the government that facility of free electricity for certain segments should be withdrawn immediately as the poor country could not afford to provide such facilities.

“No tax should be levied on electricity bills of the consumers using up to 300 units per month,” he added.

TOBA TEK SINGH: Hundreds of protesters belonging to the villages of Gojra blocked traffic for two hours on both sides of the motorway (M-4) between Gojra and Toba Tek Singh interchanges to register their protest. The villagers belonging to Chak 311-JB, Chak 312-JB, Chak 438-JB and Chak 431-JB were carrying bills and chanting slogans against the government. They demanded the authorities cancel the current bills. Due to the protest, the National Highway & Motorway Police had to divert the traffic to other roads.

NHMP DSP Chaudhry Muhammad Ashfaq and Toba Tek Singh police officers held talks with the protesters and assured them that the authorities would be apprised about their demands. At this, they ended their protest and the motorway was opened for traffic.

Scores of citizens blocked the traffic on the Samundri Road near Islamnagar locality of Gojra by setting tyres ablaze. They burnt bills and shouted slogans against the government.

BAHAWALPUR: The consumers’ protests against the electricity bills continued here for the third consecutive day.

In order to vent their anger against high bills, they took out two rallies and blocked the Ahmedpur East highway, suspending traffic and creating a traffic jam for hours.

The demonstrators also burnt their bills issued by the Multan Electric Supply Company (Mepco) and announced to continue the protest until the government withdrew electricity rate hikes.

A procession participated by the activists of several political parties and civil society was held at Chowk Khatm-i-Nubuwat. The demonstrators raised slogans against the government and Mepco.

The flood affected people in Lodhran also held a demonstration against the inflated bills while standing in the flooded area, they burnt their bills.

MIANWALI: The District Bar Association Mianwali observed a complete strike to show their resentment against the inflated electricity bills and no lawyer appeared before courts.

DBA President Saleemullah Khan told Dawn that the executive committee of the bar had unanimously resolved to keep protesting against the high electricity bills. He urged the authorities to provide relief to the masses.

The citizens of Mianwali also took out a procession from the Railway Chowk carrying banners against inflated bills and marched on Katchery Road, Hospital Road to assemble in front of the district press club. They were chanting slogans against the government and demanding withdrawal of increased tariff rates.

MUZAFFARGARH: Demonstrations were taken out in Muzaffargarh and Jatoi cities in which the demonstrators put their electricity bills on fire and blocked traffic to condemn the government over the hike in electricity rate.

They announced not to pay the current month’s bills.

In Jatoi tehsil, the protesters caught a meter reader who was busy taking readings of the electric meters.

The meter reader, Akbar, saved his life by running away from the spot. In Muzaffargarh, the Jamat-i-Islami leaders led a protest and announced not to pay the bills.

In Kot Addu tehsil, the Anjuman-i-Tajran’s Sheikh Usman led a public protest and announced not to allow Mepco officials to sever their electricity connections or take meter readings.

OKARA: The District Bar Association (DBA) observed a strike after its executive committee, chaired by president Mian Talat Mehmood, made the strike call.

Various civil society organisations and traders held protests in the areas, including Samadpura, Sirki Mohallah, Ghaziabad, Church Road, Tehsil Road and Katchery Bazaar.

At Hujra Shah Muqeem, Gogera and Basirpur, the people took to the roads and demanded withdrawal of free electricity to the various public departments and officials.

RAHIM YAR KHAN: Hundreds of citizens during a protest against the inflated electricity bills and increase in petroleum prices blocked the Shahi Road for two hours.

Although the call of the protest was announced by Markazi Anjuman Tajiran and Rahim Yar Khan Chamber of Commerce and Industry but none of the office-bearers was present in the protest. However, the shopkeepers and people from different walks of life in small groups reached Shahi Road and gathered at the City Bridge Chowk. Later, they held a procession from the City Bridge Chowk to the GPO Chowk.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2023

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