‘Everyone wants water supply to their kitchens, but nobody thinks of our lives’

‘Everyone wants water supply to their kitchens, but nobody thinks of our lives’
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PDD, PHE workers work on through winter chill without adequate gear or gadgets

SHOPIAN: Instead of looking for speedy restoration of essential services after heavy snowfall or similar hazardous natural occurences, people in Kashmir will have to stay assured that power infrastructure and road restoration would remain a nightmare for them until the field employees are given adequate safety gadgets and modern equipment to fix connectivity and save their lives.
Soon after the Wednesday snowfall in the valley last week, hundreds of employees from the Public Health Engineering (PHE) and Power Development departments (PDD) were working hard to restore the services but failed to do so in time since they had no proper equipment or safety gadgets. A viral video on social media shows a PHE daily wager lamenting the lack of equipment required for his job. The employees was wearing a plastic shoe full of snow water as he said that his officer will be enjoying himself in his cozy office but has forced people like him to work in the chilling winter, that too without any footwear protection for him and his fellow employees.
Some of such employees whom Kashmir Reader talked to said that despite repeated pleas to the higher authorities, no such equipment was made available to them. One daily wager said that they do not have the authority to even get a range from the Executive Engineer’s office.
“We face humiliation and sometimes assault from the general public because we are the people who have to deal with them and fix the line from one door to another. -Everyone wants water supply in his kitchen, but nobody thinks about our lives,” Aijaz Ahmad, a PHE daily wager, said. Questioning his department, he wanted to know if it was so poor that its workers have no shoes, waterproof trousers, raincoats or even line maintenance equipment.
The field employees blame the lack of such necessities for the delay in restoring the water supply in many areas of South Kashmir. One such case is of district Shopian, where most of the region has been without its water supply for the last four days.
Another PHE employee said that they have to walk a long distance in four feet of snow to fix a line at a particular place. It takes them hours to do so, while their hands and feet freeze from their having no waterproof shoes and trousers. At the end of the day, the supply lines remain disconnected.
Simlar is the case with the employees of the PDD, where too the field employees are denied safety gadgets. A person lost his life to electrocution in Shopian area a year ago, and two other employees were left handicapped after surviving electric shocks.
Many employees whom Kashmir Reader talked to said that even ladders for climbing electricity poles are not being given to them; helmets, shock proof gloves and water proof shoes are far beyond their expectations.
“Climbing up a pole is the duty of the inspector of the area, but they force us to do so without safety equipment. Our job is to help them, but instead we are forced to do both the helper’s and the climbing jobs while these inspectors stay at home. Outside, their people abuse us, and we risk our lives while our children wait for our return,” one PDD employee said, adding that the delay in restoration of lines would continue till all the safety gadgets and equipment were not given to the employees.
The same is the case with the Roads and Buildings Department, which has fewer machines to clear snow compared to the number of roads. Officials from the department said that it gets more hectic to clear snow in residential areas, where snow on the roofs of houses comes down on the roads and links and the department often fails to finish work on time.
PDD Executive Engineer, Shopian, Irshad Ahmad Choudary told Kashmir Reader that his office has given all required equipment to the employees. However this reporter found many employees working without wearing any safety gadgets at all.
PHE Executive Engineer Muhammad Aslam was not available for comment.