The Jammu & Kashmir Power Development Corporation has received an award for MOHRA HEP under the “Unique Project” category! The Mohra Power Project was constructed in 1905 during Maharaja’s time and functioned well those days. Keeping in view the present power scenario and the extreme hardships faced by the people on account of power during the harsh winter, the award is not only the joke of the year but amounts to sprinkling salt over the wounds of the people! This joke comes just after the award to the State Health Services as the best in the country. It makes one think that the health care in some other parts must be something like the dark ages!
There is no doubt that some of our engineers and technicians are doing excellent work in the extreme conditions and the perennial power famine is the fault of the most incompetent and corrupt rulers we have had for quite some time now. We have in reality a very fragile power system especially on transmission and distribution side which is maintained by highly overworked technicians. More than 10,000 of these workers have been working on daily wage basis for last 20 years or so.The distribution system is in such a mess that one wonders why there are not dozens of deaths due to electrocution every day. Some years back a group of engineers from a communist country after seeing the distribution network in the down town had remarked that they had started believing in God!
Yes, the J & K Government deserves an award. For totally mortgaging the abundant power resourcesto NHPC which has thrived and grown to colossal heights because of these. The award is deserved by the J & K Government for helping NHPC to build projects on the land not formally transferred to them. The award is deserved by themfor signing an agreement to get 50% share of the power from NHPC and then quietly enabling them to reduce it to 12% causing massive revenue loss to the state exchequer. The award is deserved by the leaders of the ruling coalition for roaring like a lion to get these projects back and purring like a pet kitten when the demand is out rightly rejected by the central government!
It is the worst tragedy of our times that the people living in one of the most potential hydro-power generation areas are facing a power famine in their daily lives thanks to our so called popularly “elected” rulers! The entire process of power development in the state has been lopsided from the very start. Initially, before 1947 we had only the Mohra Power House which used to supply power. It continued for quite some time. Those days one was not used to cooking or heating with the help of electric gadgets. A light bulb was the most precious possession. After 1947, the demand for power increased and the state went in for newer projects. These were mostly run of the river schemes. We could not go for storage projects that would give us round the year power as we had been bogged down by the Indus Water Treaty which had tied our hands behind the back.
The result was a perennial race between the demand and supply. We have still not been able to bridge the gap between demand and supply especially during winter. This is because the freezing temperatures decrease the flow of water in our rivers and the power houses operate at a very low generation capacity. Sometimes the projects generating over 100 megawatts in summer get reduced to less than 10 in winter. It is not only the lack of generation within Kashmir or the import from outside which is the main culprit. Basically it is both the system and the society which have become thoroughly corrupt. We want power but do not want pay for it. It is often given out that we have over 50% transmission or distribution losses. This is not true. The transmission losses only amount to no more than 10% or so. On the other hand, 40% loss or even more is in distribution due to pilferage. Dishonesty at all levels. Corruption has seeped into our bloodstream.
One would not have expected any pilferage in the metered areas but unfortunately it may be as much as in non-metered areas if not more! Strangely it is the linemen supposed to check pilferage who are showing consumers how to by-pass the meters. They are alleged to charge 100 rupees per month from these pilfers. Some consumers have a separate service line which they hook onto the mains bypassing the meter after dark. The linemen know this and keep their mouths shut against a monthly “fee”. In the beginning there was appreciable checking and surveillance in the metered areas.In fact, when the meters were installed few years back, it was given out by the Power Development Department that there would be no curtailment in metered areas and these were put on essential feeders. The commitment was honoured for some time but then the department wriggled out. Now, there is totally unscheduled curtailment at the sweet will of the department.
Power in Kashmir is like a public utility service such as roads, bridges, and so on. One cannot survive without power in harsh winters. The government does not get any revenue from bridges and roads but still they invest huge amounts on these. Why not on power till the state overtakes the demand by creating sufficient supply. When hundreds of crores can be spent on golf courses which are used by miniscule elite, why not on supplying sufficient power for which in any case people are paying even though the amount may not be commensurate with the actual consumption. Unfortunately, our rulers are obsessed with a “Tourism Mania”.
Hundreds of crores are being spent on Tourism Development Authorities even though there is no possibility of these areas, some of which are restricted even for locals, becoming real tourist hubs! It would be worthwhile for the government to commission an international agency to assess the real impact of tourism on the state’s economy apart from generating seasonal employment. In the meanwhile, if the rulers really want the people to believe that they are interested in their welfare, they should make arrangements regardless of the cost to supply uninterrupted power of reasonable voltage during the current winter. Otherwise, the peoples’ eagerness to get rid of them at any cost regardless of the alternative would grow manifold notwithstanding the awards of all kinds!