Power Politics

Hakim Iqbal Abdulla

Every since the July 2012 blackout which affected 620 million people in India, the power situation in our state has turned abysmal. Contrary to the myths being propagated, the fact is that power ministry has imposed strict norms since then on discoms (Distribution companies) which is evident from the remarkable frequency improvement of the grid. So Jammu and Kashmir is not the only state suffering. Excess drawals now attract huge penalties which no state can bear.

Although we have our differences with NHPC but the truth must be told no matter how bitter it is. I am not trying to say that NHPC is a blessing for the state but let us not put NHPC as a curtain to hide our incapabilities. When the national transmission and distribution (T&D) losses are about 25%, J&K’s T&D losses are at a whopping 60%. Imagine, out of meagre 758 MW of hydropower that we generate in state sector, about 455 MW are unaccounted for, leaving us just with about 303 MW of effective power generation against our peak demand of 2500 MW.

Let me just try to put things in correct perspective.

Every second person in Kashmir thinks that the bulbs in India get illuminated because of power produced in Kashmir. The fact is that the current generation capacity of Indian grid is 2.24 lakh MW. If the entire generation from the state is added including that of NHPC, the percentage share of J&K in India’s power generation is still a meagre 1.035%. So the concept of Kashmir supplying electricity to light Indian cities is a myth and a political rhetoric. J&K is not as power rich as it is projected to be, although it cannot be denied that the potential of the state to meet its own need is more than sufficient.

It has been alleged that NHPC has “earned huge profits, contrary to low performance of public sector (PSU) companies” which is a concoction. NHPC is a mini category company with a new profit of just about Rs 2000 crore against other PSU’s like NTPC whose profit is about Rs 9000 crore. Both NHPC and NTPC were incorporated in 1975 and today NHPC is just over 5000 MW company and NTPC is over 42000 MW. Every corporation works in a style unlike J&K government. Corporations work to maximise profits, acquire more resources and further their interests. J&K government works to win elections, bully its own people and making political statements which appeases innocent Kashmiris during elections. Which government makes agreements and later avers that it has lost the agreement files or they are not traceable?

Let’s see the progress made by the state in electricity sector. Forget about NHPC for a while. The state of J&K with 20000 MW of potential has not done enough to tap this resource. The only project worth mentioning is Baglihar for which operational expertise was again taken from NHPC. While our chief minister wastes no opportunity to put the entire blame on NHPC, why does he never talk about the number of megawatts added during his tenure in the state sector?

It has been alleged that NHPC is unfair to Kashmiris as far as employment opportunities in executive category are concerned. The RTI giving details about the number of local executives was published widely. NHPC, like other PSU’s, conducts All India exam for its executive positions. Besides, it visits reputed colleges located most often at places where it has its projects like NIT Srinagar, NIT Hamirpur (Himachal Pradesh), etc. If Kashmiri students can’t make it through either of the two routes, NHPC can’t be blamed. Those Kashmiris who compete are placed well in NHPC at the current moment as well. Before you point fingers at NHPC, should we not ask the government about the flailing higher education system in the valley? There is no state engineering college in the valley catering to the local population. The only one that existed was handed over to the central government. Can’t the state construct at least one good engineering college which would produce efficient engineers catering to the local needs as well as making a name for the state?

While the government continuously blames NHPC on one hand, it makes agreements to build new plants with them on the other hand. The very recent deal with NHPC for setting up a Hydro Power training institute is another example. Besides, J&K government has again formed a joint venture with NHPC for projects viz Pakal-Dul, Kiru and Kwar. These are but a necessity as we don’t have the potential to develop the power projects singlehandedly. We are unlike other states which not only construct but run turnkey projects all by themselves

There seemed to be a lot of jubilation when NHPC agreed to pay for the water charges. Surely that was the right decision which J&K government should have taken much earlier but contrary to the common belief, NHPC did not lose any profits even after paying water usage charges and these are recovered from the customer and the major customers of NHPC projects in J&K is the state. The only way out is to develop our own corporations and strengthen them with better systems.

Water cannot be seen as the only option. The problem with hydro stations is that they are very costly to construct. For every megawatt, you require about Rs 8-10 crore. Besides, hydro plants have associated risks like geological surprises which can occur at anytime escalating the projected costs many times than anticipated initially. Almost all hydro stations in India have missed their targeted completion dates by years. Contrary to the common notion that we don’t have coal mines so we can’t have thermal stations, the fact is that even Delhi and Haryana and other sates don’t have coal mines, yet have thermal stations generating as high as 3000 MW at a single location. Although thermal energy is a debatable issue but if we want power scarcity to end fast and other industries to develop, we will have to discuss this subject amicably.

 The author is a power engineer by profession working with NTPC.Views expressed are his own.

 

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