Kashmiri Pandits demand cancellation of electricity charges on migrant camps

Jammu, Jun 19 (PTI) Migrant Kashmiri Pandits living in government-provided townships here are bristling with anger over the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s decision to levy electricity charges on them.

Hundreds of Pandits settled in the Jagti township along the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway near here staged a peaceful protest on Monday to demand immediate revocation of the order to levy electricity charges on them.

In a recent order, the Jammu Power Development Corporation Limited (JPDCL) directed charging consumers living in migrant camps for electricity consumption.

“We appeal to the government to reconsider its decision of charging electricity bills from the migrants languishing in different camps for the past 33 years, waiting for their return and rehabilitation in the Valley,” All Party Action Committee Migrant Camps Chairman HN Raina said.

Electricity bill at the migrant camps was earlier covered under the security and relief measure funds. On May 23, the JPDCL issued an order to charge the consumers living in the camps for their power consumption.

Raina said, “The Pandits in the camps live on government relief and are not in a position to pay electricity bills This order needs to be revoked.”

He also threatened to intensify the agitation to press for their demand.

Vijay Bakaya, general secretary of the Apni Party, slammed the decision to charge electricity tariff from the migrant settlers.

He said, “These displaced people have been living in these camps for the last over three decades and, unlike many others, are not in a position to build their own houses because they are not financially well off.”

He also appealed to the government to reconsider the move.

“They are those who subsist on relief of Rs 13,000 for a family of four and free ration. Therefore, charging them for electricity consumption would be a great burden on their limited income and affect their daily lives,” Bakaya said.

Sunil Pandit, a prominent social activist and an inhabitant of the township, said they have temporary quarters and ration cards.

“I am not here by choice and the government has failed to ensure our permanent rehabilitation so far. Charging (us) for power bills will be a great injustice to us,” Pandit said.

He said they have already submitted a memorandum to Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and other officers concerned for revocation of the order.

Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants) KK Sidha said a meeting between the representatives of the migrants and the government is going on over the issue.

“The issue of charging electricity bills (from migrant Pandits) concerns the Power Development department. A meeting is on between the migrants, the department and the administration to address the issue,” he said.