SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir National Conference on Thursday expressed concern over the proposed move of the government to privatize power distribution companies (DISCOM) in Jammu and Kashmir, saying the measure will impinge on people’s right to free energy.
While expressing dismay over the proposed privatization of power distribution Sector (DISCOM) in Jammu and Kashmir, Party’s Members of Parliament Muhammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi said the ongoing situation and the previous clampdown have broken the back of J&K’s economy and that the Privatization of power distribution will further push people to wall. “The measure will majorly hit the BPL consumers, and middle class, and farmers who have already been at the receiving end due to the untoward situation prevailing in J&K since 2016. As per the new proposed privatization measure, a central enforcement authority will be set up which will disempower the regulatory commissions and will further add to the centralization of power authority in wake of no consideration for problems faced by locals,” the duo said.
Terming the proposed measure as draconian and anti-poor, Party MPs said the proposed privatization will snatch the access to electricity from economically challenged sections of the society. “The decision is solely a prerogative of a popularly elected government,” they said adding, “Economy activity in J&K has shrunk since 2014 due to the deluge of 2014, and the subsequent upheaval of 2016, the post august 5th clampdown and the latest COVID-19 induced lockdown. Private players are cash strapped, employability is at its lowest ebb, and inflation has already broken the back of middle class. It is highly unbecoming of the government to come up with such measures when the economy of J&K is struggling. Far from proving succor to the people, the government is adamant on sucking the life and blood of people. Horticulture sector has also been incurring losses since 2015; the local trade has also suffered reverses since 2016. How are people going to pay exorbitant power tariff? People associated with handicrafts, agriculture and its allied sectors, tourism sector, small scale industries and construction sector are reeling under huge debts. At a time when a vast majority of people in J&k is struggling to make both ends meet, the strategy of the government should have been to lend them a helping hand, not pushing them to wall, with such measures.”
MPs argued that the proposed measure will affect the ecology as the energy-starved people will take to the burning of wood. “It is quite obvious that people will ultimately bank on wood and other non-renewable and harmful resources to meet their energy demands. It is distressing to see government clueless on augmentation on renewable resources of energy in J&K despite having a vast potential in solar energy, wind energy and geothermal energy. No significant headway has been made on making biogas a popular and viable source of energy in rural areas,” they said.
MPs said the government in a bid to generate more revenue will be pushing the already suffering people of J&K to wall. Further, they said that there was no comparison of J&K with other states and UTs. “The electricity load of Lakshadweep is very low; the population is sparse as against J&K, which has a large undulating topography and a huge population to cater to. How will our Gujjar, Bakarwal and other tribal people withstand such a change? Caparisoning J&K with highly industrialized states and UTs is irresponsible.” The MPs said the move will further hamper the growth of a viable manufacturing sector in J&K.
The MPs observed the privatization of DISCOM will not provide solutions to the problems of the power sector in J&K, saying that far from helping rescue the viable sector it will have a major impact on the whole economic activity of J&K. “Government should take lessons from Mumbai, New Delhi, and Kolkata, where private participation has led to revenue losses. Relegating power distribution to the private sector will only compound the miseries of people across all economic sections, and regions. The real problem lies in the distribution losses, sluggish work on new power projects and laying of new transmission lines, rather than relegating the distribution sector to private players. The government should take corrective measures to stop the seepage in terms of distribution losses and collection of unpaid bills from various government departments,” they said.