Keeping the tradition of the erstwhile Maharaja’s tradition alive, the Durbar has moved to the salubrious climate of Jammu, leaving the valley people to face the worst ever power famine during the freezing winter! It is the worst tragedy of Kashmir that in spite of the capacity to generate thousands of megawatts of hydro-electric power, its inhabitants are always facing shortage of power especially during severe winters. 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 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!
However, if one delves deep into this whole mess 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! Well, the loss of our rights on these rivers through Indus Water Treaty is not the only basis for the mess even though it is one of the major factors. The entire process of power development in the state has been lopsided from the very start. Initially, before 1947 we had only the Mohura Power House which used to supply power. It continued for quite some time.
Those days one was not used to cooking or heating with the help of electric gadgets. A light bulb was the most precious possession. After 1947, the demand for power increased and the state went in for newer projects. We got P S Gill as our power commissioner who worked out a detailed plan for development of various projects. Two projects, one at Ganderbal and the other near Baramulla, the Lower Jhelum came up. Gill was totally attuned to run of the river projects and did not consider any storage based project. We also got bogged down by the Indus Water Treaty which had tied our hands behind the back. The result was a perennial race between the demand and supply. We have still not been able to bridge the gap between demand and supply especially during winter. This is because the freezing temperatures decrease the flow of water in our rivers and the power houses operate at a very low generation capacity.
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! Strangely it is the linemen supposed to check pilferage who are showing consumers how to by-pass the meters. They are alleged to charge 100 rupees per month from these pilfers. Some consumers have a separate service line which they hook onto the mains bypassing the meter after dark. The linemen know this and keep their mouths shut against a monthly “fee”.
According to recent press reports, the present winter is going to be the worst in our memory as regards the power. The latest problem has been caused by the lack of facilities for transmission of power from the Northern Grid to the valley! Allegedly, there have been inordinate delays on the part of the administration in sanctioning and releasing funds for the two grid stations which could have increased the capacity for transmission. The peak requirement of the valley is supposed to be 1700 Megawatts while as the transmission capacity is only 1200 Megawatts. In fact, it is a funny situation, there is enough power available in the market and the government is ready to pay for it forgetting the realisation of revenues, yet we cannot bring it home as we have no carriage facilities. There could not be a worse misfortune than this! Will there ever be accountability for such lapses! Not till Kashmir remains an orphan! Everybody wants it but no body sincerely owns it! Well, the only choice is to forget all the modern gadgets and go back to Kangris and Bukharis and pray for our salvation!
The author is an I.A.S. (Retired) & Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.