Winter, with its brisk chill and bracing breezes, was once a season long awaited in Lahore. With it came bowls of dried fruit, oranges, hot dishes served fresh from the stove and cups of steaming tea. All this has changed. Acute gas shortages imply that even the most basic food is hard to prepare, with people turning to gas cylinders attached to tiny stoves in desperation so as to do what they can to manage. The lack of gas means heating homes is obviously next to impossible and lives are taking a turn to the grim, Dicksonian times with the smog created from pollution adding further to the gloom.
Frequent power outages, most of them unannounced add — quite literally — to the constant difficulties. The constant sense of crisis adds to stress and without any reliable source of energy, day to day management of what should be routine activity becomes all the more harder for people. To add to all this, bills seem to be rising higher and landing at doorsteps with precise regularity even though the utility they charge for it is simply not available. Consumers who have tried to battle this out with the companies responsible for distributing power or gas to homes and persuade them to reduce charges have generally failed miserably. There is just no respite at all.
The key question is: what is being done about this situation? The answer seems to be nothing at all. We do not even have clear-cut words on quite what the situation is. While we know there is an acute gas shortage, no timings for gas cuts are announced. In some areas, the gas seems to disappear indefinitely, sometimes even for 24-hour periods. The rights of consumers are obviously being blatantly ignored. Who is responsible for this? And should they continue to pay the price for the mayhem which exists all around, disrupting and making it impossible to spend a day without considering how best to manage in the existing circumstances? How long will this continue? The pleasures of winter have vanished. We ask if they have gone for good, leaving people increasingly helpless and locked in perpetual misery.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2012.