India Interior

And then there was power in Valley

Gulzar Bhat | Updated on September 04, 2020 Published on September 04, 2020

Power supply has certainly added a new dimension to the lives of people in Dunadoo Astanpura village in Kellar block.   -  Gulzar Bhat

Manzoor Ahamd Taw ( right) along with his two neighbours

Electrification has finally brought cheer to remote villages in the Kashmir Valley

A sinuous road passing through the hills in Kashmir Valley’s Shopian district leads to the idyllic Dunadoo Astanpura village in Kellar block. This otherwise non-descript rural cluster was in the news in July because electricity had finally reached it and other adjoining villages in the region.

It was the end-result of a Transmission and Distribution (T&D) project undertaken by the erstwhile J&K State Government in 2016. It was finally completed this year at a cost of ₹3.04 crore and has literally lit up Dunadoo Astanpura.

The transformation

Electrification has indeed transformed life in the village. Till the other day no one spoke of buying TVs, washing machines or computers. But suddenly white and grey goods are on many prospective shopping lists. No longer do villagers have to commute to Kellar to charge their cell phones. The excitement is palpable when one meets the villagers.

Standing outside his modest hut is 45-year-old Mazoor Ahmad Taw. He is in animated conversation with two neighbours. They are discussing what to buy now that electricity has finally reached their village. “Last month, our houses lit up for the first time,” says Taw with a measure of pride.

It was on July 13 that the authorities made the 6.3 MVA Mastpoara-Kellar power receiving station operational, thus making the villagers’ dream come true. According to Choudhary Mohammed Yasin, District Magistrate, Shopian, the station benefits more than 25 outlying villages in the area.

But why did the project take four years to complete? “The reason for the delay included paucity of funds, protracted shutdowns in Kashmir and the abrogation of Article 370,” explains a power development department official. “The construction work was finally completed after it was placed under languishing projects last year and given priority,” he adds.

Lockdown impact

It is not unusual for development projects in the conflict afflicted Valley to miss deadlines due to frequent shutdowns, lack of funds and hostile weather conditions. The work on the receiving station was also stalled due to the Covid-induced lockdown.

Non-local labour, which forms a major portion of the workforce in Kashmir, was unable to reach the Valley because of the nationwide lockdown following the outbreak of the pandemic.

According to an official, every year, at least four to five lakh skilled and unskilled labourers show up in the Valley during springtime. But this year they were missing because of the coronavirus.

Mohammad Maqbool, an Assistant Executive Engineer with the Power Development Department, says that after work was paused in March because of the pandemic it was restarted in May. “We worked round the clock for a couple of months and completed the remaining work in record time,” recalls Maqbool. According to him, the station provides a seamless power supply for 20 hours a day to 25 far-flung villages. Of them, 10-12 are hamlets occupied by members of the marginalised Gujjar community. Power supply has certainly added a new dimension to the lives of people in Dunadoo Astanpura. Says an elated Nahida Akhtar, a local resident: “I have never ironed clothes or watched television at my home as there was no power. Now we can think of buying some modern electronic home appliances.” Ghulam Qadir Awan, another resident, says that it is a heavenly feeling to see his house lit up with electric bulbs. “Now I am planning to buy an electric rice cooker,” he says, with a smile flickering across his face.

The writer is a Kashmir-based independent journalist

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Published on September 04, 2020

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