Friday, August 1, 2008

Powerless, Meter less

Everytime the light goes off, people come out on the street to protest. They are protesting for land in Amarnath. On the phone I was told that Electricity meters of houses have been damaged by the protesters. I asked is the protesters are damaging the meters of their own house. In jest, I was informed: first they go out and destroy meter of others, and then they go home and destroy their own meter.
Only a few years ago, Jammu was a meter less town. Electricity - the city did have some time in between 8-10 hour power cuts, voltage - if you torched a live wire intentionally, on good days it could tickle you to go into a voluntary spasm and break a smile on your face. Every house was and still is run by giant privately owned transformers. Step up - Step down is a ritual to be performed every hour or so for 24 hours, everyday, every night, every month and every year.

This electricity was almost free. Then the local administration stringent on the subject of electricity meters. On my last visit to the city, June 2008, my uncle told me now the electricity almost never goes, except of course when its our vari . And even the hours of vari are now normal - only 2 to 3 hrs. I was there for more than two weeks and the light did go off unscheduled. I was told: Bad Luck!

Actually now that I remember, there were meters earlier also but only now they are being taken seriously.

I guess the city never took them meters kindly.

Now every time the light goes off, with nothing better to do, people go out protesting for land.

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Those who remember history, or those who remember Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins, or better still, those who remember Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown, will of course remember that the the story of Kashmir problem starts in 1947 with the burning of Mahoora Power House and plunging of valley into darkness.

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I was told that the Gujjars are being asked to leave Jammu. Where will they go? They have always lived in Jammu. They are told: Go back to the Valley.

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