Energizing Karachi’s War Against COVID-19

by Safi Uddin

As the nation is currently facing an unprecedented public-health challenge, in the shape of the COVID-19 threat, there is the need for cohesive and coordinated efforts from every segment of society.

In this hour, when the Corona Virus has hit almost every sphere of human life, including the economy, it is particularly tough for the economically vulnerable. It is the duty of the state to respond to this challenge, but also of those with resources to join hands with the state and provide assistance where it is needed the most.

There is no doubt that we can never repay our health-care fraternity who are working non-stop against COVID-19, ably supported by the law-enforcers, relief organizations and the producers of essential goods like food and medicines.

These selfless workers deserve our gratitude for endangering their own lives to serve on the front-line, to ensure the nation’s socio-economic sustainability, during this global pandemic. But what we can do is help them in this fight.

Notable efforts are being made by these companies, for example; Zong has pledged 1.5 billion Rupees, Jazz is donating 1.6 billion Rupees, while PTCL, UBL, Kisan, ARY News, Lucky Cement and many others are also contributing very generously towards relief initiatives. But There are so many more essential functions that are needed and this is where the corporate sector has stepped up.

During the lockdown and social-distancing, many corporate enterprises have done their bit in keeping financial services up and running, ensuring telecom connectivity, maintaining the flow of information and in making sure that essential utilities such as water, gas and electricity are available round the clock.

Karachi is the industrial and commercial hub of the nation, and as such its power-utility, K-Electric has a major part to play in in ensuring the city stays energized so that socio-economic activities do not come to a standstill. During the lockdown, the power utility has ensured that home-bound residential consumers get uninterrupted electricity to keep them comfortable as they practice social distancing.

A number of essential staff at strategic locations such as power plants and Load Dispatch Centers, have been sleeping on site to ensure isolation as they go about their duties.

Subsidized electricity provided by KE to major hospitals as well as some philanthropic organizations has been a boon for the healthcare and social uplift sector. Moreover, the need to ensure Zero Load-Shed at medical facilities, strategic locations such as water pumping stations and NGOs, has become even more critical. Similarly, Ehsaas Support Centers, distributing free-food, groceries and cash among the lowest echelons of society people must also be kept energized.

Most of all, special focus is being kept on the electrification of all the essential industries, to maintain sufficient productivity in these sectors.

Bill-payment, which can be a struggle for some segments of society during the economic slow-down is also an area where KE has provided relief. This is also in line with the special directives issued by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) along with the resumption of physical meter reading by the utility, as consumers had shown some apprehension about the NEPRA-provided formula used for average billing and its impact on their home budget.

Average billing will now be done only in areas where physical reading is not currently possible.

Also, in support of the Prime Minister’s Relief Initiative for COVID-19, KE had extended the due dates on its electricity bills of less than 4,000 Rupees. In cases, where the monthly consumption of a residential consumer is less than 300 units, on a single-phase connection, KE is offering an option to pay such bills in three installments, by deferring the current dues over the next three months.

Similarly it has duly extended the bill payment due dates to facilitate consumers, as needed. All of these measures, which the power utility has taken as a humanitarian gesture, have added to its existing financial constraints, which are in large part because of pending dues from the government, which are to the tune of Rs. 240 billion.

It can be hoped that the government will release these due funds at the earliest in the interest of the city of Karachi and its people.

Like so many other corporate entities, K-Electric has not forgotten the thousands of policemen, social-workers, rescue workers and other who are in the field, along the power utility’s own field teams, that are constantly putting themselves at risk to minimize the impact of the virus.

Medical experts urge people to constantly wash their hands along with social distancing and as such KE has developed a special ‘Mobile Hand-Sanitization Vehicle’ that is available to these frontline soldiers as they go about their duties, and helps promote a culture of hygiene and safety.

The need of the hour is for more corporations and organizations to step up and play their due role in the efforts to minimize the impact of this debilitating crisis. If that is done, we, as a nation will be able to weather this storm and emerge on our feet, and get back on the path to progress.

Safi is a professional digital marketeer and possess rich experience of over 9 years in the respective field. With a strong contribution towards prestigious and renowned brands, he has had his share of contribution towards leading success stories of various brands like Faysal Bank, Philip Morris, Unilever & Coca Cola Pakistan. Safi writes for leading blogs and publications with his views reflecting primarily on the progressive sectors of Pakistan as well as current affairs.

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