K-Electric boasts of massive profits, but Karachi still does not have electricity

Published: June 23, 2015
Email

I fully support Operation Burq. Anyone who wrongs K-Electric deserves to face judgment, but what about the scores of people who have suffered financial losses due to K-Electric itself? PHOTO: KElectric Facebook page

Three years ago, I wrote a blog praising K-Electric’s improving standards, and in general, the blog was received well by Karachiites. Clearly, many of us were in agreement about the power company’s progress as a service provider.

Rolling blackouts in areas where customers were paying bills regularly were less frequent than before. At the same time, the company formerly known as KESC had adopted social media to allow more avenues of communication. There was also a marked improvement in customer service and a faster reaction time from the repair teams.

At the time, I expected this to only be the beginning of K-Electric’s upward trajectory. As it turns out, this was the beginning and the end. Over the last year or so, my experience has been frustratingly poor, mostly due to K-Electric’s bad work ethic. Now, in the midst of a crisis, K-Electric has been caught with its pants down.

Karachi is experiencing one of its worst heat waves in recent memory. It is so hot that I imagine Satan packed his bags and left our port city a few days ago to vacation in the cooler temperatures of hell. It is so hot that fashion mogul Mugatu from Zoolander is probably talking up our city right this moment.

Reportedly, hundreds have died in Karachi, and there seems to be no respite in sight.

In the face of rising temperatures, increased demands of electricity have certainly been a greater challenge for K-Electric. Unsurprisingly, the power company has proven to be completely unprepared.

On the Facebook page ‘Halaat Updates’, countless are bemoaning the loss of power in their homes. Some have suffered for days. Others like me have faced enormous losses due to fluctuating voltages. There are numerous reports of damaged appliances that the hardworking middle class people of Karachi will struggle to replace.

Is it unreasonable to expect K-Electric to compensate its customers in the face of such extraordinary circumstances? Perhaps so, but for a moment, consider K-Electric’s macho campaign against defaulters and those who are stealing electricity.

I fully support Operation Burq. Anyone who wrongs K-Electric deserves to face judgment, but what about the scores of people who have suffered financial losses due to K-Electric itself? Where is our Operation Burq? As far as I am concerned, K-Electric needs to replace my two air-conditioners and other electric appliances. In any other country, the company would have faced an expensive class action lawsuit. Here, it is just another day of the week.

K-Electric has been boasting massive profits year after year. Recently, The Express Tribune reported of K-Electric’s record profit of Rs3 billion at an increase of 83%. This was also due to falling energy prices, but why aren’t we seeing any improvements? Since my blog three years ago, infrastructure continues to be fragile.

A friend of mine, a talented former journalist named Hani Yousuf posted about her personal experience where she and her elderly grandparents faced frustration after being without power for three and a half days. Yes, in this heat. Ultimately, she wrote an email to the suits at K-Electric who immediately responded by addressing her issue swiftly. Stressing the positives of the experience, Hani says she was impressed by the courteous response to her email.

Read Hani Yousuf’s full blog here

While I am glad her difficulties were addressed, it is unacceptable that she exhausted every mode of communication for three and a half days without resolution. Are we resigned to find the K-Electric executives on social media to resolve our concerns?

It would be easier to forgive K-Electric had the issues been isolated to the heat wave. The company has been notoriously slow to respond to complaints over the last few years. My own residence suffers from voltage fluctuations due to weak wiring in the neighbourhood which is yet to be replaced.

Six months ago, I was lucky to suffer from only the loss of a microwave, but others weren’t so lucky. One elderly pensioner a few houses away told me of how his items valued in the hundreds of thousands were destroyed. Items he had purchased over the course of years. Luckily, I have a digital meter installed to check voltages. At the time of the incident, our voltage had risen to over 400V (normal voltage should be no higher than 240V). Realising the gravity of the situation, I ran around the block to inform as many neighbours as I could.

On another occasion, the wires outside my house leading up to the electricity meter took up in flames. Alarmed, I called K-Electric, and registered complaints on their social media pages. Despite assurances, not one employee came to resolve the issue over the course of a week. Finally, I found an electrician willing to repair K-Electric’s own wires.

Every time I wrote to the company I received hollow reassurances, and am quite sure that the man behind the K-Electric computer screens looked like this: ¯\(°_°)/¯

So once again, K-Electric, I ask you. Where is our Operation Burq? Where is our justice?

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.