Pipria Singipur: Can you imagine a power outage for nine long years? That`s exactly what this village in Pilibhit district has had to endure after its main transformer developed a snag in 2001. Pilibhit is the parliamentary constituency of Bharatiya Janata Party MP Varun Gandhi.
While an engineer in the power corporation says he is aware of the problem, the district administration claims it is not in the know. Despite having all the power supply equipment in place, the 700 residents of Pipria Singipur, some 250 km from Lucknow, have been living without electricity for over nine years.
"How long do you think a power failure can continue? By any stretch it cannot be this long. But it`s the reality that we have been facing for the last nine years," Rajeet Kaur, the head of Pipria Singipur, said on telephone.
Residents say it was some time in June 2001 that the transformer developed a technical snag, resulting in power failure. Since then the transformer has been out of use.
"The harsh reality of our village exposes the lackadaisical approach of government officials who are supposed to work for the public and ensure that people have access to basic amenities - `bijli` (electricity), `pani` (water), `sadak` (roads)," she said.
The district administration has expressed surprise over the state of affairs in the village.
Pilibhit district magistrate Kaushal Sharma said, "It`s really surprising that a village is not getting electricity despite having a transformer. I will discuss the issue with other officials and sort out the problem as early as possible."
However, a power official said he was aware of the problem.
Om Prakash, an engineer with the state`s power corporation who is posted in Pilibhit and is supposed to look after the power supply in Pipri Singipur, said, “Yes, I am aware that the village has not got electricity for several years."
"Our staff is looking into the matter," is all he would say.
Pipria Singipur got electric supply in the mid- 1980s. Most people in the village are poor and work as labourers. Residents say they have carried out umpteen demonstrations and registered written complaints with the district authorities as well as officials of the power department, but to no avail.
"The government officials are just not serious about sorting out the matter. Had they been committed towards their work, the problem we have been facing for the last nine years would have been sorted out," Bakshi Singh, a farmer and resident of Pipria Singipur, said.
"It`s not even a matter of days, the problem can be rectified by the engineers of the power department within a few hours."
Singh has led several demonstrations in the village for resumption of power supply.
"I just don`t know how many times we have carried those sit-ins and demonstrations. But we get nothing except hollow promises and false assurances from government officials," he added.
Residents of Pipria Singipur face a lot of problems without electricity.
"The entire village plunges into darkness. From the security point of view it is highly unsafe. On a number of occasions, thieves have made away with valuables from several houses," said Kushal Chand, who owns a tea stall in the village.
Students also find the going tough.
"We have a primary school where students of lower age groups study for hours without electricity. Students, particularly those appearing for board exams, are also not able to prepare properly for the examinations," said Bachchar Singh, who owns a small footwear shop in the village.
"I have to go to my friend`s place in Bhagwantapur village to watch a cricket match on TV or if I want to charge my mobile," said Bachchar.
Residents of Pipria Singipur have lost hope of power supply ever being restored. As a symbolic protest against government officials, they have even started disconnecting the power lines to their homes.
"What`s the use of such a connection? Nothing has happened in nine long years. Things will not improve in future either," said Ram Achal, a resident.
While Varun Gandhi is the elected parliamentary representative from Pilibhit, the seat was held for many years by his mother Maneka Gandhi.
According to officials, there is a requirement of about 9,000 MW in the state during peak hours but the government is able to provide only 7,700 MW.