The Perineal Power Problem!

No doubt because of our run of the river schemes we have extreme shortage due to low water level in winter yet we are unable to cope even though we have enough power available in the market for buying it. We have had not enough means to transport it from outside nor have we enough grids here to distribute the imported power. This is the main issue which we may be facing during the current winter. Recently there were two press reports on the subject of power. One painted a dismal picture stating that we will have a shortage of 600 megawatts of power and the power scenario would be worst ever during the present winter. Against unrestricted power requirement of around 1900-MW, the power development department is able to handle only 1250-MW within the region owing to deficient grid infrastructure, leaving deficit of 650-MW. The reason given was failure of the authorities to complete the Alstaing and Budgam grid stations. These are two centrally sponsored schemes approved in 2006. It transpires that some bureaucrats have been sitting on the projects. One of these lost his posting last year because of inordinate delay in releasing funds for the project.

Another recent front page press report stated that now there will be no power shortage as the transmission line over the Mughal Road has been completed. This will enable transmission of 1000 Megawatts of power from outside to Kashmir. But we are again stuck because of our inability to handle the imported power. The only alternative is to complete the two grid stations on a war footing. Budgam station is supposedly partly working while the Alstaing one is yet to be completed.

Incidentally, Kashmir has always been facing two problems on a continuous basis. One is the basic political problem which has been now there for over 70 years. There seems no possibility of the solution of this political problem in the near future. We are destined to live with it!The other is the power problem. Not the political power but the electrical one. It is unbelievable that a place which supposedly has the highest hydro-electric power potential always faces a power famine especially in winter. Kashmir’s two neighbouring countries in connivance with the World Bank have virtually robbed it of its invaluable resource. It is a pity that an organisation like the World Bank did not keep any provision for the inhabitants of a territory which is internationally disputed and whose water resources they were mutually dividing between its two neighbours! In a way, while dividing the waters of Kashmir without keeping a provision for the local inhabitants, India and Pakistan have committed a robbery! Pakistanis probably thought that one day Kashmir will fall in their lap and because of that accepted all Kashmir Rivers as their share. On the Indian side, the National Hydro-electric Power Corporation stole whatever was left as Kashmir’s share. From the profits of their Kashmir projects they are supposed to have earned 900 billion rupees so far!

Usually, it is the power engineers who have to face the ire of the people. However, in reality they are not responsible for the overall mess. If one delves deep into this whole problem which has created a power famine in Kashmir, it transpires that basically it is Kashmir’s politicians and bureaucrats who have actively connived in this loot! For last few decades, power woes are very much a part of the Kashmiri life in winter. It is not only our misfortune but is also a disgrace for the ruling elite which have been in political power all these years. There is hardly anyone who has not heard politicians of all hues and shades claim from the pulpits the hydro-power generation capacity of our rivers. The estimates vary from 20,000 to 25,000 megawatts or even more. Unfortunately, as already stated, all these rivers have been mortgaged to Pakistan by the Indian government. Kashmir’s so called political leaders have either signed on the dotted line or in some cases have not been taken on board at all!

Apart from the international theft of power through World Bank, it is not only the lack of generation within Kashmir or the import from outside which is the main culprit. Basically it is the system which is thoroughly corrupt. We want power but do not want pay for it. It is often given out that we have over 50% transmission or distribution losses. This is not true. These losses only amount to no more than 10% or so. 40% loss or even more is due to pilferage. Dishonesty at all levels. Corruption has seeped into our bloodstream. One would not have expected any pilferage in the metered areas but unfortunately it may be as much as in non-metered areas if not more! Apart from this most of the government departments have huge arrears of power fees. In addition, even the paramilitary forces hook their lines wherever posted without paying for it! Last year the Department had started a programme of putting all distribution networks underground. However, for reasons best known to them, we instead got an additional overhead distribution network with smaller transformers. In most of the places, there are multiple distribution lines with transformers after every few metres! This is supposed to stop pilferage. However, now we have electrical transmission lines in every nook and corner which does not add to the beauty of a place. Regarding the recent confusing press reports, there is an obligation on the part of the government to formally clarify the position. Anyhow, we have to live with both the problems, the political as well as power one without any end in sight. Incidentally, the both are of our own making!

The author is an I.A.S. (Retired) & Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir and can be reached at ashrafmjk@gmail.com