A powerless people

With Karachi facing prolonged power outages, people are left wondering how long before things improve

A powerless people


requent electricity breakdowns and unannounced loadshedding ahead of Eid ul Azha have added to the inconvenience of the people already hit by inflation and revised power and fuel tariffs.

A visit to various markets shows that frequent breakdowns during the day leaves shopkeepers and buyers in a state of total misery. People largely blame the city’s electric power company, K-Electric, for the situation.

Most areas of the city are facing a serious energy crisis. There is scheduled as well as un-announced loadshedding in most parts of the city. There are also frequent power outages on the pretext of ‘maintenance’ even in the so-called ‘loadshedding free’ areas. The hike in fuel and electricity tariffs has already added to the consumers’ woes.

Karachiites say they are in a fix. From budgeting their monthly expenses to preparing for Eid on a limited budget to facing growing inflation in the country, the list goes on.

“It is hard to pay utility bills on a low income. The government has significantly raised the prices of electricity in the last two months,” says 45-year-old Saima, an industrial worker, living in Karachi’s Korangi area. “My salary is Rs 35,000. I have received an electricity bill for Rs 6,000 despite the fact we are facing massive loadshedding. The electricity bills are becoming unbearable for the poor.”

“I have three children and I am the only bread earner for my family,” she says adding that due to the ongoing hike in prices of goods and electricity, it is hard for her to celebrate the Eid. “We are facing a massive financial crisis. We don’t have electricity for over 14 hours a day but we keep receiving inflated electricity bills on a regular basis,” she says.

The prices of oil, flour, pulses and vegetables have risen. “People are hardly getting by. The power outages and hefty utility bills have imposed an extra burden on us. How do we celebrate Eid?”

According to the Power Division, the total electricity generation in the country is 21,213 megawatts whereas the consumption demand is 29,000 megawatts. There is therefore a 7,787-megawatt shortfall.

A senior official in the Power Division tells The News on Sunday that 5,430 megawatts electric power is being produced through hydro plants. WAPDA’s own thermal plants are producing 1,705 megawatts. The independent power producers (IPPs) generate 10,241 megawatts of electricity and wind power plants generate 1,629 megawatts while solar plants produce 113 megawatts.

“K-Electric has raised the tariffs in Karachi but failed to provide electricity,” says 53-year-old Shahid, a hairdresser living in Nazimabad. “During Eid ul Azha hairdressers make an extra earning as people get their hair and beards trimmed but due to massive power failures in Karachi our earnings have been affected,” he says.

“The economic crises have badly affected the lower and middle-class families who must now pay inflated utility bills without even being able to use electricity. Inflation and power failures have become a constant source of mental agony for the people,” says Sakeena, a resident of the Karimabad locality.

“We cannot afford to use generators in our shops as petrol is almost Rs 250 per litre. How can we run a generator on so expensive a fuel for the whole day?” Shahid says there should be more power supplying companies in Karachi to compete with the K-Electric.

“There is no electricity in New Karachi for as many as 14 hours a day. This affects our tailoring business,” says Rana Shahbaz. “We used to stitch 7 to 8 suits a day but now with a massive power outage ahead of Eid ul Azha, we are facing difficulties in meeting orders. Our customers are annoyed as their Eid dresses are not ready yet.”

“The government should take some measures to control inflation and decrease the prices of fuel and electricity to provide some relief to the poor this Eid,” pleads Shahbaz.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif on July 3 presided over a meeting on the ongoing power crisis in the country. He directed the relevant authorities to take immediate measures to overcome the massive power shortage in the country.

“I paid a Rs 15,000 bill as the power company has raised the tariff after the recent increase in fuel prices,” says Sakeena, a resident of the Karimabad locality. “My husband is a computer operator in a local firm and earns Rs 50,000,” she says adding that “following the recent hike in power and fuel tariffs, it is hard to pay for groceries, utilities and children’s school fees”.

“The economic crises have badly affected the lower and middle-class families. They have to pay inflated utility bills without even being able to use electricity,” she says. “Inflation and power failure have become a constant source of mental agony for the people.”

Many markets and shopping malls have a deserted look. “There are no customers in the markets for Eid shopping due to the recent hike in the prices of practically everything,” says Atiq Mir, chairman of the All Karachi Tajir Ittehad. “Two years ago during the pandemic, prices of all goods, fuel and electricity were quite low,” he says adding “but now the prices have gone through the roof. Shopkeepers are left waiting for customers as people simply don’t have the money to buy anything.”

“Many traders wonder if they will be forced to close down their businesses. There are no customers in the markets. People are worried about how they will feed their children and how they will pay their utility bills.”

“The political leadership, it seems, is more loyal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) than the electorate. It appears to not care about the problems faced by the common people,” says Mir.

The writer is a freelance journalist and researcher based in Karachi. He can be reached on Twitter @Zafar_Khan5

A powerless people