‘We Are Installing 11.5 Lakh Pre-paid Meters’

PDD Chief Engineer Hashmat Qazi tells Saima Bhat

PDD Chief Engineer Hashmat Qazi

KASHMIR LIFE (KL): Where are the problems in transmission setup?

Hashmat Qazi (HQ): Against the restricted demand of 2000 MW for Kashmir, a scenario without power cuts, our grids and lines permit us to have only 1250 MW.

Our grid level capacity at 220 KV is the bottleneck. In spite of the Sterlite transmission line which can help us import 1000 MW more, the problem is that we don’t have a capacity to handle that power. We need grids for that. We have Alsteng grid under construction for seven years. By November 30, one part of the grid will be ready and connecting to Ladakh. For the first time, Ladakh will get a national connectivity through that grid but the complete grid commissioning where it would help the valley will be done by December 31. That is definitely going to give the distribution engineers some peace of mind.

KL: How much of it is generated from our state projects?

HQ: A few days back we even supplied 1370 MW but we don’t have that much of capacity. We managed it from our local generation, which comes to us at 133 KV levels. People need to understand that we have 400 KV lines coming from Northern power grids in Punjab. It is then stepped down to 220 KV and further to 132 KV. We have a radial ring of 132 all along, even in Srinagar City. It is in 132 KV where we get our local generation like from upper Sind 1, Upper Sindh 2, then lower Jhelum and all other small power plants, which is in addition to 1250 MW.
During winter, the river discharge reduces, so we hardly get 20 to 25 per cent of the local generation. We collect the water throughout the day and run the powerhouses from 6 to 10 pm at 30 or 40 MW, which is a big help. We could give 1370 MW of power in the last ten days when there was huge demand and improved generation as well.

KL: How many areas are yet to be electrified?

HQ: There is none. Under the centrally sponsored Sawbagya, we were the first state out of the special category states to have electrified each and every household. Earlier, there were around 1.42 lakh households, but they all have been electrified as on March 31, 2018. Under this Pradhan Mantris ghar ghar bijli yojna we did it free of cost. There were some places where there was no grid facility but we got them connected on generators. No household in J&K is un-electrified.

KL: Why did we face crisis recently in Srinagar after the snowfall?

HQ: The snowfall was heavy enough for the trees to come down on the lines. It is autumn and the leaves were still on the trees and with this snow, they got heavier and created huge destruction.

We have a very strict pruning and lopping regime, which is being done thrice a year. We do it in four months – March, April, August, and November. It was supposed to take place on November 10, but snow overtook us a week ahead. Even the lopping of the trees won’t have helped, because it was mainly the grid tower that had come down. Half of the city could have been charged the same day but grid supply was not available.

Had it been a manmade crisis, the system would not have collapsed from Banihaal to Kupwara. Our availability crashed from 1250 MW to 50 MW. It was the nature’s fury.

KL: Why are trees and power lines so dangerously close?

HQ: Power lines do not follow trees but trees follow the power lines. We always go by the walls and the gates but people plant trees by the peripheries of their gardens. It is always a pain in the neck of PDD.

Our main lines come from Chashmashahi grid that feeds Lal Chowk, Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar, Nishat, Shalimar, and Harwan. All the lines come through Boulevard and we can’t cut trees on this road. We do not have tunnels either. This is something we have to live along with. Yes, 20 to 30 per cent lopping would help but not really.

In downtown areas, we don’t have trees, but still, our lines were down because the snow came down from the rooftops. Whenever there is snow, short circuits occur and it will continue. But what matters is gauging us on a response. What should be our response time? PDD revived the system within a day.

KL: We had various centrally sponsored schemes for strengthening the distribution set-up. Still, we have problems?

HQ: We have put in that infrastructure. This breakdown was not because of an old system. It was a system breakdown because the lines pass through plantations and roads.

I hate to say this but people are also responsible. The best line is the one with straight alignment. But people don’t give us the right to do it. They leave us with no alternatives, so we make angles, spots where the trouble starts.

Under Sawbhagya scheme we are making everything as per standards set by Rural Electrification Corporation (REC). Our all-new substations look smart and steady. Even a layman could understand there is some difference in the station because you have taken standards and taken them strictly. In the next eight months, you will see an entirely different distribution network as around six or seven schemes are going to improve distribution set up. We are making new receiving stations, augmenting receiving stations and substations.

KL: You are losing a lot many people while working on poles and lines?

HQ: It is the black side of our department. In the last four years, there is no new entry of fresh need-based worker. We have thousands of them who have been there for the last 15 years now. These poor fellows never get the salary in time, just once or twice a year. They are only carrying on thinking that they will get seven years of salary then they will get regularized. They have reached the age of 45 or 50. There is some kind of exploitation as well. On this, I am with you. This should not have been done; it is wrong.

To prevent accidents of the daily wagers, we have been giving vigorous training to them. We have a separate department TTTIC, wherein an SE rank officer heads the department and he takes personal care in training.

Most of these accidents happen out of the stupidity on account of the person who becomes the victim. They get all the gadgets but they never use them. All divisions have it. I have taken serious note of this. They always take shortcuts. There are some welfare schemes going on but we are working on one more but I hate to talk of welfare. We should talk about avoiding these accidents. Actually, one accident kills seven to eight members of his family, literally.

Under the rehabilitation process, the regular employees get an exgratia relief and SRO job. Daily wagers get exgratia relief only but the government is looking how to make them eligible for SRO benefits.

KL: At one point in time, we were toying with the idea of creating distribution companies?

HQ: This is the only place in India, where the power development department is a distributor. It is the job of Discom’s. In Kashmir, PDD has the backup of the finance department. But we have an agreement with Union Ministry of Power that this department will be unbundled into two discoms, one each for Kashmir and Jammu; one trans co (transmission company), and one trade co, a power trading company. But it is a very long process because it envisages converting a government department into three commercial companies. There is a misconception that it is the privatisation of the power sector but it is not. It is just unbundling in which the government gives you a handshake, takes away all your liabilities and debts and give you a clean balance sheet to run your operations commercially. These will still be government-owned companies. A month back, J&K set up its power trading company.

KL: You are getting into new metering?

HQ: Our metered penetration is 55 to 60 per cent. This year, we are going for 11.5 lakh pre-paid meters that will help you in conserving energy. Around 2 lakh of these smart meters are for Srinagar alone.



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