severe chill, the residents of Sirhama a small hamlet in Bijbehara have seen electricity in their homes for not more than 10 hours in last seven days. They have not complained knowing fully nothing would change. Sirhama is just an instance. Even the capital city is groping in dark for most of the nights, these days, when the temperature is usually below the zero.
The shortage of electricity in winters is nothing new in Kashmir. At a time when the mercury goes sub-celsius, the LPG is supplied as per the routine assessments and there are no visible alternative for warming the homes, surviving becomes expensive and problematic. It does not impact businesses and manufacturing only. It hits the education as well.
In certain cases even the hospitals have to temporarily shift to alternative currents for managing crucial procedures.J&K is water abundant but energy deficit state. Over the years, the energy management has emerged as the focus of the public discourse. Civil society has contributed its bit in understanding the crisis and the systems that were employed over the decades to ensure the J&K stays as a purchaser and not a producer.
The crisis that is dominating the scene right now is availability and distribution. Winters usually reduce the water levels across sub continent so energy is in short supply as the demand peaks. That is perhaps why all the state governments have invested substantially in thermal energy that helps get alternative supplies when the hydropower generation nosedives.
At one point of time there was a plan of creating one such unit in the plains outside J&K. There were even demands for staking claim to the due share of nuclear power that India produces as member of the union. The government has come up with a power policy last year. It has its own limitations. But one thing that is worth appreciating is that it is the first expression of the government that it intends to do something. It has come with up with certain idea for harvesting water resources which need to be perfected.
As the generation initiatives are long gestation areas, the government must come up with workable solution for the prevailing crisis. There are problems in tariff collection which need to be taken on priority. The area officials must be taken to task. There is no issue that consumers do not want to pay. They are paying more to income tax than to power department and that needs to be taken care of. There obviously are loopholes and they need to be plugged so that consumers get enough of voltage to have proper light in their houses and enough of voltage in their bathrooms for abulations.
This is the bare minimum that is required. The power crisis has started hitting the trade. As hundreds of tourists are landing in Gulmarg and Pahalgam, it is becoming quite embarrassing for their hosts to even offer them the basics. The government must do something on emergency basis to help Kashmir sustain the brand. And see how the concerns of the vast population can be taken care of.