Oct 18 - 24, 20

The performance of Karachi Electric Supply Company (KSEC) after its privatisation is consistently declining since the sole electricity distributor of Pakistan's largest city with population surpassing 17 million has abysmally failed to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity to all consumers in its jurisdiction and also it has made its employees of middle and lower cadres disappointed over its capability to manage the company's affairs by bringing a sudden shift in its human resource policy.

Since the present management assuming the helm of the company's affairs, the lower management staffs are under high job insecurity. "We do not know if we are asked next day to leave," an employee of sub-engineering rank told this scribe on condition of anonymity as he was among entire workforce made into signing a pledge that restricts information sharing with public. The management of KESC first of all tactfully rewarded bargaining agents by promoting them to officer ranks to weaken bargaining positions of workers and then as a last nail on the coffin of employees' rights regularised employees across the board. Carrots to haranguers of working rights silenced outlets to questions. So far so good, but at the same time the management put on retrenchment 294 employees on the grounds of misconduct and poor performance to send shivers amongst rest of the employees as the leftovers felt extreme job insecurities, under stress even when they are sincerely doing their jobs.

KESC's management put on tap of funds to hire astute lawyer to get legal backup for its layoff decision from the Supreme Court when sacked employees moved to the apex court. However, thus far it is on the loosing streak. A sudden change in human resource policy from the privatised management was to augur well to remove irregularities and entrenched corruption from bottom to top levels in the company. But, this led to further complications. "I think top management picks two different policies for management-cadre officers and field workers and for upper-echelon," comments a worker, adding it is generously rewarding the latter while having hawkish stance towards lower staff. Fully decorated head office of KESC with directors drawing six-figure emoluments per month and dilapidated facilities including rundown vans, substations, etc. are manifestations of this disparate behaviour.

Though KESC's UAE-based new management claims to have spent 208 million dollar out of its original commitment of 361 million dollar it made while taking over distribution and production assets of the company in 2008, yet it remains unable to get the city out of the power crisis, which is in fact worsening day by day. More than four-hour staggered spells of electricity load shedding have become common across the city with KESC attributing it to power thefts and currently to inadequate supply of gas from state-run Sui southern gas company limited (SSGC), which says it is providing gas to KESC despite the fact that KESC owes 20 billion rupees to SSGC. KESC gets 210 to 220 mmcf gas from SSGC on daily basis. Due to faults developed in the supply line from Bhit and Kadanwari gas fields, the daily gas distribution reduced to 140 mmcf. Now, the supply is said to restore at 180 mmcfd. KESC official attributes power breakdown to insufficient supply of gas to mainly its Bin Qasim power plant. Therefore, it wants the government to prioritise gas allocation to power sector over fertiliser and households and demands reshuffling in the government's preferences.

It is an irony that contemptible attitude of lame excuse is common in Pakistan and passing the buck is also familiar trait of those assigned the responsibilities of getting things done. Instead of expanding its generation capacity on alternative energy solutions in the wake of drawdown of traditional fossil fuel reserves in the country and seeking switchover from thermal (oil and gas) power production, it is fastening itself to straitjacket solutions without exerting endeavours towards value addition in its services. The same innovations it applies to revamp office paraphernalia can transform the power sector outlook of Karachi. Electricity demand and supply gap happens to be staggeringly five thousand megawatt in peak seasons in Karachi where domestic users account for 42 per cent of total electricity demand, followed by industrial consumers (35 per cent), and commercial (10 per cent). Therefore, domestic consumers are main victim of electricity load shedding. Industrial consumers are exempted from load shedding. Nevertheless, subscribers to electric services of KESC from all segments are not satisfied for many reasons from excessive bill to inconsistency in service quality.

While there is a need of increasing electricity generation capacity, KESC could not make any power plant online during last fiscal year. The installed generation capacity during 2009-10 stood at 1955 megawatts and in nine months of last fiscal year, its generation decreased 5.7 per cent over the corresponding period, according to an official estimate.

Indubitably, electricity theft is done ceremoniously in Karachi and it is rampant in all parts of the city, not confined to particular income group, but equally no one can deny that KESC's own ignorance is making thieves free of any social obligation. Red-zones like shantytowns or Katchi Abadis with high incidence of electricity thefts have political back-ups and guilty of electricity theft finds a way out of legal clutches easily because of his relationships in the government or with the influential official of KESC. It is not the end of course. A routine Kunda system is not as much irritant to the power distributor as other organised networks of electricity thefts are, said KESC's CEO Tabish Gohar in a public gathering. He did not explain who he was pointing to nor he hinted at any remedial plan. How will things improve? Given the compromising attitude of present KESC's management towards blatant anomalies in the company, internal disorder and power thefts, no improvement looks as if possible.