A video showing some women breaking electricity meters on the road has gone viral on different social media platforms with a claim that women in Kashmir resisted setting up of electric meters in their area.
The claim further added that people in Kashmir didn't want to pay for essentials like electricity, water, etc, as they have received free electricity for almost 70 years.
However, the claim is not completely true.
The video is indeed from Srinagar's Rajbagh area, but it shows women breaking the new smart meters that the Kashmir Power Distribution Corporation Limited (KPDCL) had brought to install in place of the old meters.
It is false to claim that the people in Kashmir have not paid any electricity bill in the last 70 years. We found notifications from the state department talking about electricity tariffs and also accessed old bills from people, which debunks this claim.
Power Development Department of the Union Territory of J&K supplies power to people through its various subsidiaries – JKSPDCL, JKPCL, JKPTCL, JPDCL and KPDCL – but the same rules apply to all.
Speaking to The Quint, Jammu Power Distribution Corporation Limited (JPDCL) Managing Director (MD), Shiv Anant Tayal said that people have been paying bills as per the decided tariff.
We also spoke with a senior official in the KPDCL and they confirmed that the claim is false.
Sharing the viral video, a Twitter user wrote, "बिजली के मीटर लगाने के लिये गये वाहन से श्रीनगर में खातूनों ने मीटर खींच कर सड़क पर पटक कर तोड़ डाले। इन लोगों को पिछले ७० सालों मे मुफ्त बिजली,पानी और अन्य नागरिक सुविधायें मुफ्त इस्तेमाल की आदत पड़ गई है
कश्मीर मे कोई भी बिजली बिल का भुगतान नही करता| देश है ना भुगतने के लिए"
[Translation: In Srinagar, women took electricity meters from the vehicle which went to install them and slammed it on the road. These people have been getting free electricity, water, and other things for the last 70 years. No one pays electricity bill in Kashmir because the country is there to pay for them.]
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
The claim about residents in Kashmir not paying electricity bill doesn't add up. We spoke to power departments in both Jammu division and Kashmir division, who told us that the claim is not true.
IS ELECTRICITY FREE IN KASHMIR?
We looked for notifications and government orders regarding the electricity charges and found the tariffs mentioned on the JK PDD's website.
The tariffs for different categories were mentioned in the press release from the year 2016-17 to 2020-21. We also found that archived rates on the Kashmir Power Distribution Corporation Limited's website.
We spoke to a senior official in the KPDCL and they also stated that the claim in the viral message was false.
"In Kashmir, people pay electricity bills in two ways. Firstly, a fixed amount is taken from people who have registered their connection with the electricity department. At the same time, those who have a meter are charged according to the consumption of electricity. Following the directions of the Centre, the Electricity Department is working on installing meters in all the houses."Official, KPDCL
The MD of Jammu Power Distribution Corporation Limited, Shiv Anant Tayal, also said, "Electricity supply bill in Kashmir is charged according to the rules laid down in the Jammu and Kashmir Electricity Act. State Electricity Commission proposes to increase the prices, after getting the approval of the government, the prices are increased in Jammu and Kashmir."
We also found a document on the Jammu and Kashmir Electricity Act, which mentioned the methods of charging.
With the help of a local journalist, Syed Junaid Hashmi, Managing Editor, The Straight Line News, we accessed an old electricity bill of a local resident.
The bill, from nearly eight years ago (December 2014), shows the amount paid by the customer as Rs 439.
WHAT ABOUT THE VIDEO?
To check the claims made about the video, we conducted a keyword search on Google for "women breaking electricity meters" and found news reports in media houses based in Jammu and Kashmir.
One of the reports published in Greater Kashmir on 27 May, carried a screenshot from the viral video. The report said people living in Rajbagh area of Srinagar protested against the installation of new smart meters in place of the older meters.
JK PDD officials told the media organisation that similar resistance was witnessed in other parts of Srinagar as well due to the misconception that "smart meters will make them pay more for electricity."
Another report in the publication, published on 2 June, stated that the KPDCL had filed an FIR against the residents of Rajbagh for damaging the meters.
We spoke with the journalist who covered the incident for Greater Kashmir, Auqib Salam, and he told us that the protests were over installing new meters. He added the new meters were supposed to replace the older meters and were not being installed for the first time. He also dismissed the claim that people in J&K didn't have to pay for electricity.
A report in another media organisation called Daily Excelsior mentioned that the residents were paying regular bills.
Evidently, the claim that people the J&K have not been paying electricity is completely false.
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