Citizens bear brunt of KESC-govt stand off


Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said on Friday that he sensed that a deep-rooted conspiracy is being hatched against Sindh and the helpless crises-hit Karachiites are beginning to harbour the feeling that they are being used as a blackmailing tool after the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) announced to increase the duration of load shedding to 10-13 hours a day in the provincial metropolis.
In a statement issued on Friday, the provincial minister said the hike in load shedding hours in Sindh, especially in the provincial metropolis, was a “heinous conspiracy” being committed against the people of the province. The minister’s comments came after the KESC management announced prolonged load shedding hours through issuing an advertisement in leading newspapers from Saturday (today) onwards.
“This is not on! Why should the people suffer if the government is not paying the KESC,” exclaimed Saeed Ahmed, a resident of Keamari town. Ahmed, a KESC residential consumer, opined that the company seemed to have decided to use the people of the city, to which the private utility should ideally have served in the face of uninterrupted supply of electricity, as a “blackmailing tool”. “It (KESC) must not use its already-troubled consumers to pressure the federal government,” said Ahmed, adding that, “It really is blackmailing.”
Kamran Mughal, a stevedore at the city’s port, also came down harshly on the utility, and exclaimed that the masses should not be punished for the government’s mistakes. “By increasing load shedding KESC is giving a very negative message to its consumers,” said Mughal.
Maqbool Shah from Saddar electronics market said, “This is unfair. Life is already so miserable for us and now we have to face this problem too.”
Meanwhile, disappointed over not being put on the federal government’s priority list of circular debt payments, the utility said that from August 17 increased load shedding hours on all of its residential, commercial and industrial customers would be implemented.
“We at the KESC are extremely disappointed over the government’s inaction in releasing outstanding payments and hence, effective August 17, 2013, we are compelled to revise load shedding regime across our territory,” the company told its “valued” customers.
It said while the government had settled circular debt of up to Rs 500 billion in the energy sector, the KESC had not been paid a single rupee despite the fact that the government owed Rs 84 billion to KESC, of which Rs 43.6 billion were against tariff differential claims.
“We had repeatedly requested the senior most government officials in the relevant ministries, using every possible channel of communication, including a public appeal, to release at least Rs 7.5 billion out of the total payables, enabling the utility to run its operations smoothly and maintain the prevalent load shedding regime,” the KESC said.
However, while significant payments were made to other energy sector companies, the power utility was totally ignored, it claimed.
During the last two months alone KESC had to borrow substantial amounts from banks to pay for its oil purchases and it was hoped that the utility would receive its long outstanding payments from the government, said the company.
However, it claimed, the government’s approach towards KESC had now limited its ability to buy the required quantity of fuel for its generating plants. The inevitable outcome was under utilisation of generation capacity and a widened demand-supply gap leading to significantly increased duration of planned load shedding in the city.
“We have made it clear that owing to non-payment of government dues, we are forced to adopt these severe measures that would surely have adverse socio-economic impact in Karachi,” it said.
The company hoped that government would reconsider its stance towards the largest city of the country and treat KESC at par with other power sector companies vis-à-vis circular debt resolution.
“We also appeal to all our customers to remain calm and peaceful as the utility will continue its efforts to get its due payments from the government and normalize the power supply situation across all customer segments,” the utility said.