Dracula’s Kashmir

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Sheikh-QayoomSheikh Qayoom

Bram Stoker could not have had a better setting for his Gothic, horror novel, Dracula. The vampire could not face light and would become active during darkness, a period during which Dracula hunted down his kill.

Kashmir is an extended tale of darkness that can hone the literary skills of many a horror fiction writer with just one difference, our story is no fiction.

Ironically, the day Prime Minister, Narendra Modi inaugurated the 450-MWs phase second of Baglihar hydropower project, the power development department announced its latest curtailment schedule in the Valley!

If any government in power can address the electricity woes of the people, it would have addressed a major issue of discrimination against the people. While fighting each other diplomatically, politically and even militarily over Kashmir, India and Pakistan agreed to sign the Indus Water Treaty in 1960. That power woes of J&K are a natural corollary of this highly lopsided treaty.

J&K cannot build water storage dams to generate electricity and that leaves most of our 20,000 MWs hydro power potential untapped.

The economic reconstruction package announced by the former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh gave Rs 1850 crore to the HNPC to build hydropower projects in J&K. The same package gave Rs 750 crore to the state power development department to build infrastructure so that we can purchase more power from the NHPC.

Interestingly, J&K is the largest buyer of electric power from the NHPC and our economic reconstruction packages contain funds for the NHPC to generate from our rivers and sell to us.

This dramatic irony is not a case in isolation. In many other sectors also we are given funds to ensure that these generate multiple returns for companies owned outside.

A lot of hue and cry was raised about people resisting metering in Srinagar city and other places in the Valley. The first promise made by the department was uninterrupted power supply to metered areas. ‘You pay for what you consume and we will supply you as much as you can pay for’. The slogan seemed rational and more and more areas in Srinagar city came under metering by the PDD. Then came the expected – curtailment schedules were announced for metered areas while those where meters had not been installed faced both scheduled and unscheduled curtailments.

There is a new ‘cruel joke’ which the PDD has introduced in addition to its already existing novel excuses for failure to supply electricity. This is called ‘rotation’. It means an additional hourly curtailment when you are supposed to have uninterrupted power supply.

The present daily requirement is 1600 MWs in the Valley while the department says it supplies 1200 MWs. The agreed load between consumers and the department as per records, is just 600 MWs. This means there is a lot of pilferage. Pilferage by unscrupulous consumers has also become an excuse for the PDD to justify its failure.

Politics is inextricably linked to power woes of J&K. Just one of our major rivers, Chenab has a hydro power potential of 10,000 MWs and all except a meager portion of this goes waste because we are shackled by a Treaty we had never been a party to. Darkness is destined to rule Kashmir and Kashmiris are doomed to remain in darkness. The domain of Count Dracula in Gothic horror could just not have a better setting.

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