Power Destitution

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Tufail Mehraj

The snow that draped the valley white on the last day of 2013 reflected a stark reality of destitution. Historians argue that this reality dawned with the arrivals of Mughals as invaders in the state. It never had a hiatus when power transferred to Afghans, passed to Sikhs and subsequently, skid to Dogras. And after 1947 partition, the word destitution became synonym to power in Jammu and Kashmir.

But one may ask, what is the point to quote history—loaded with betrayals, and backstabbing? Pundits, however, believe that when it snows, destitution in power gets exposed. It is not the power of Omar Abdullah who is camped in Jammu with his Darbar at the moment. The fair-weather scion of Abdullah clan doesn’t like sleaze humour, mind you. One of those embedded tweets (that speak louder than his actions) might be round the corner.

The third generation Abdullah directed his deputies recently to make basic amenities available when power went missing from the valley. As if before the fall of white from sky, there was no need to make such arrangement on ground. But what is the point of complaining, his grievance cell is no longer entertaining concerning stuff!

So, we are being told (of course, by official data) that J&K imports 90 % of power from Northern Grid during winters. And that domestic generation capacity of around 800 MWs is not enough to meet the domestic consumption.

Now hear this: In spite of owning 20 odd hydro-power projects (mostly small) with a cumulative capacity of 760 MW, the state purchased power worth Rs 3600 crore in the year 2011-12, against which the sales revenue generated was Rs 1,200 crore only. And then, state never shy away to purchase its own power from NHPC on the onset of winters.

But let us heed to another narrative. It is from a common man who toils hard every day to make his living, and then pays monthly power bills with almost religious devotion. For him, these figures mean nothing but a betrayal. And then, he is being told that his own state is impotent enough to pay even monthly salaries to their own employees.

By the way, if the mandate of sadak, pani and bijli has put you on chair, why can’t you even take a decision without consulting Delhi, which itself breeds the destitute power relations.

For the sake of mere lip service, babus keep saying that the hydel potential of the state is about 20,000 MW. And then Omar Abdullah with almost destitute expressions on his face addresses public rallies and tells them that projects of about 16,200 MW capacity have already been identified.

But one wonders, what stops this government to harness that identified power potential. An old alibi is that Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan is offering continuous hindrance in it. All debates after that sound like a spineless will of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to tame inflation.

So here is the last word: Ever since coalition government led by National Conference (NC) took over reins of the state in 2009, the power tariff has witnessed an average hike of 70 % in different categories of consumers. And yet, power woes are only escalating.

Resolutions apart, will 2014 end the state of power destitution? Cool your heels, boys. It is indeed shooting for the moon!

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