Let there be Light

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    Having road blocks, half constructed buildings and the worsening security situation in Karachihave become everyday problems. One factor, however which tends to shake the foundation of the metropolitan is the shortage of electricity. Running a UPS and Generator store is the most lucrative business in this situation; however it does make one wonder where the real power vanishes. The presence of over 500 X-KESC personnel on the streets, disrupting city traffic, administration and law and order for over two months only added further agitation to the population. Having billboards saying that “Kesc is proud to be powering the Nation” did not help change any emotions.
    For a country which was hit by the worst floods in over a century, it does not take a genius to wonder where all that raging resource went.  With a huge labor class even a decision to dig up the beds of the dried rivers could have helped save some fraction of water, all of which could have been used in times of fuel scarcity, which is the prime excuse for electricity shortage.

    The number of people sitting for the ‘Dharna’ outside all KESC offices was reasonably large. Electricity lines were cut in various parts of the city and as the KESC management was unable to come to work due to the hostile environment outside their office, getting a repair meant waiting a week.  While the retirement packages offered to these personnel were economically and socially appropriate, critics argue the force because of which they failed to accept them. Due to the magnitude of the protests held, it can be observed how members of the KESC play in hands on local politicians.

    In terms of energy companies, Pakistan State Oil is the largest public sector company of the country. With its clientele as crucial as the armed forces and the KESC, the company running low on liquidity poses danger to nearly all businesses and sectors of the economy.  With its receivables mounting to nearly 13.2 billion in regards to KESC, it is no surprise that the latter company is having difficulties getting more resource for electricity generation.

    The standard supply on credit from PSO is 30,000MT of furnace oil for electricity generation. In June, the credit line had to be extended till 47,000 Mt’s and by July the power utility was demanding an extension till 75,000 MT’s. In line with the instructions from MoP&NR, PSO accepted KESC’s request and extended credit line to 75,000MT till July 31 with the understanding that KESC will clear the outstanding dues. However, on 15th July, 2011 KESC again regretted to honor its commitment to pay. This was the third time in a row for the company resulting in again curtailment of raw materials. Other parts ofPakistan, includingKarachiended up being victims again with the rising fuel prices and an apparently dark Ramadan on their head.

    Recently, the Karachi Electric Supply Company went over a management makeover. This was possibly one of the most positive and much needed steps towards managing a city which has over 1 crore population from all demographics. The new ‘system’ put in place was for the eradication of corruptive practices generally prevalent in the company. However, another clause in the smooth running of administration was that the environment provided to the brains imported from abroad with incentive packages would be favorable and secure for conducting their businesses.  That is something which has been unable to take effect since the much requirement trimming of the workforce. KESC fear an overnight wrapping up of the management given the hostile environment some of the dedicated staff has to face, the company’s ties to the Ministry and its debt.  The concept itself is daunting to not only to massive companies like PSO but also to the locals. The possibility of having a vacuum in the management when the supply of power is running counter to the need is just another recipe for further chaos and anarchy to break out on the streets.

    It is hoped that such a time does not come. When thePunjabside fears floods again maybe this time WAPDA should step in and draw strategic longer term plans for capturing the water resource. This is not only the need of the hour but also the need to bail out theirKarachiwing from the financial and social pressures which are curtailing it from performing. For a country which is now reasonably abundant with water, and relies on hydroelectricity, the question of no light is only attributed to poor management, nepotism and corruption in this multi million rupee arena.

    The locals unfortunately are only looked over by their never ending patience.

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