Normally a measure of support is extended to those who have had enough and take to the streets to voice their anger and frustration. That understanding cannot be extended to the KESC workers who occupied a roundabout near the Governor’s House on July 19, choking one of Karachi’s busiest streets. At the hottest time of the year, KESC’s striking workers have decided that they will let residents suffer in darkness and heat unless each and every one of their unreasonable demands are met. All workers have the right to air their grievances but to shut down the city and even resort to violence is unacceptable. The reasonable course of action to take would be to involve the government in the delicate negotiations between the management and the striking workers, which it eventually did on the night of July 20 after the KESC protesters laid siege to the utility’s head office. One hopes that a solution will be in sight to the impasse because a city of 18 million must have a power company that is able to carry out all its essential work without any hindrance.
Ironically, the KESC workers, on July 19, were matched by a different group of protestors: Citizens who have had enough of living without electricity. More sympathy needs to be extended to these protesters since they have had to bear the brunt of the workers’ strike. They, too, however, need to refrain from violence since that is unlikely to change the minds of the workers and will only plunge the city into further misery, which it did, because large chunks of it became mired in gridlock that same evening. The water shortage to some extent is linked closely with that of electricity and that means that the government needs to step in. A situation where a city the size of Karachi has a power company which in effect is saying that it is close to shutting down operations is clearly not in anyone’s interest, least of all of the people of Karachi. Workers who are being laid off cannot be allowed to cause inconvenience to the general public by their actions. The government should not tolerate the closure of roads or any damage to public or private property from such protesters.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2011.
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