Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fussies Rewarded

Darius Rajabian

Подоши хурдагирӣ

The 2008 white horror in Tajikistan is showing off with an unseen cruelty and has claimed some newborn lives in Tajik maternity hospitals. Despite the Health Ministry's hasty allegation on the irrelevance of the fatal cases with the energy crisis, many observers believe that power cuts and lack of generators in hospitals had directly affected the kids' well-being and resulted in loss of lives.

The ministry asserts that there are 39 power generator units distributed among the capital's maternity houses and all of them are intact. However, some stories circulating among the population depict a sad picture of dark and cold hospitals whose power generators have been stolen and sold for money. The unconfirmed death toll of newborns in Tajikistan varies from 6 to 12.

Meanwhile, the capital's Mayor Mahmadsaid Ubaydullaev summoned an emergency meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss the current crisis with the state-run energy company Barq-I Tajik. The head of the company Sharifkhan Samiev emphasized again that the population had to realize the necessity of saving electricity in order to eliminate the crisis. He went on without mentioning that the entire country was living on power rationing already.

In turn, the Mayor ordered to cut power supply to public bathes and saunas and direct the saved electricity towards schools, kindergartens, hospitals and multi-store buildings.

The order could be given indeed, but even those places are not enjoying the warmth in the coldest period of decades. Tajik officials lay the responsibility of power cuts in above-mentioned buildings on excessive usage of high-voltage heating equipment by people.

Ubaydullaev is the only Mayor who can summon Barq-i Tajik's boss and moot the problem with him, due to his authority as the second influential political figure of the country. Perhaps that was meant by Samiev on Wednesday, 23 January, when he described the capital's reaction to power cuts as "harsh" and praised the population of other districts and regions for their understanding of the situation. As a gesture to appreciate the tolerant, Samiev announced more restrictions in power supply for "understanding districts and regions", while a promise was given that "fussy" Dushanbe will be supplied with electricity as far as possible.

In the aftermath of the crisis Kurgan-teppa, the administrative centre of Khatlan region was eligible to receive 500 thousand KW/h of electricity per day. Barq-i Tajik has decided to save more than a half of the ration and now Kurgan-teppa has to put up with merely 209 thousand KW/h per day. The majority of the Khatlan districts have been deprived altogether of the luxury of illuminating and warming up their freezing houses.

The same could be said about the northern region. A letter from Soghd published on website reads: "Several pensioners died of cold in Chkalovsk district during last couple of weeks." The unnamed signatories of the letter accuse President Rahmon of being unable to solve the crisis.

According to the recent rationing, each of these regions will receive 1 million KW/h of power a day.

Shadi Shabdalov, the leader of the Communist party, believes that there is a way to avoid harsh rationing. The Aluminium Plant in the western town of Tursunzade consumes a lion share of electricity: around 22 million KW/h per day. It seems conceivable to provide the 7-million-nation with power if the plant will stop functioning for a while, he suggests. But the plant's strong ties with the ruling elite have kept the proposal low-key.

However, among Samiev's Wednesday announcements the plant was mentioned too. 2 million KW/h will be reduced from Tajik Aluminium Company's daily electricity share, he said.

Meanwhile, the weather promises the worse on Friday when temperature drops to record low: -24C. And then even -14 degrees of the expected weather temperature on Monday will be considered "mild" by tolerant Tajik population. But Samiev's spoken thoughts suggested that according to his logic, the tolerant gets less, while the fussy is rewarded highly.

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