With Ramazan now just a couple of weeks away, it has become more vital than ever that the KESC management and its workers resolve their months-long dispute and bring the impasse to an end. Right now, it is the workers who are out on the street; if the supply of electricity to the city isn’t restored then those fasting all day will be sure to join them. Here is the situation as it stands: The management insists layoffs are necessary to keep the utility company functioning and has even offered to pay workers their wages for a while if they stay at home. The workers, who earn the bulk of their money unofficially through bribes for illegal connections, have protested — often violently. Despite government involvement, there seems to be no end to this dispute. Meanwhile, it is the beleaguered residents of Karachi who have to suffer the consequences. With KESC workers on strike, there is no one around to fix broken wires, destroyed transformers and the like. There have been many reports of these workers taking huge amounts in bribes just to carry out routine maintenance. There are also accusation that it is the workers themselves who have sabotaged transmission lines and cables. Unconscionably, the striking workers have also resorted to violence and occupied the roads near the KESC head office, the Karachi Press Club and, on occasion, even the Governor House. As tends to be the case in Karachi, the workers have political support behind them, which only adds to the difficulty of finding a solution.
It is impossible to guess what the endgame may be but it will not be pretty. The workers seem to be refusing to budge an inch, and the same goes for the management. In such a situation, anything could happen, including the government re-taking control of the power utility. One hopes an amicable solution is reached because this option, given the history of government mismanagement of KESC, may be the least desirable.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2011.
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