For almost a month now the Power Development Department has subjected the valley dwellers to the worst power scenario seen in recent times. One would accept the inevitability of power shortage in severe winters due to lesser discharge in our run of the river schemes and a strict regulation of the northern grid to over draw power. Always, one would heave a sigh of relief with the advent of spring in regard to power supply. However, this time the valleyites are being virtually blackmailed. On one hand there is a proposal to hike the tariff and on the other hand we have a scenario which is even worse than the notorious Pakistan power crisis. May be the power people have more affinity to Pakistan than to even Jammu, very much a part of the “atoot ang”! It could also be a punishment to the valley dwellers for demanding “Azadi”. Jammu of course does not want “Azadi” but total merger and in fact in many ways they enjoy fully the rights and privileges enjoyed by the citizens in other parts of India!
There are many stories circulating about this power mess. First it was given out that the department is trying to stabilize connection to northern grid which cuts off power due to over drawl or fluctuations in frequency caused by overloading. However, the northern grid officials flatly denied this and stated that J & K was free to draw as much power as they needed and there was no problem from their side. Only, the J & K had to pay for it. Then came the story that the power development department had been put under a strict embargo by the state government on import of power from the northern grid. They could not go beyond rupees three thousand five hundred crore. The department resorted to worst ever type of load shedding. Power for one hour and curtailment for next hour in metered areas and no power for hours together in non-metered areas. But there was no such curtailment in Jammu where the “new Maharajas” of Kashmir with their “new Damaras” enjoy life in winter.
Probably the top brass of the department, many of whom are on the verge of retirement and some are enjoying re-employment want to impress the rulers that they are doing their best to save money for the state exchequerto enable the “Maharajas” to indulge in frivolous festivals, unproductive recreational jaunts and so on at the cost of the poor suffering Kashmiris. They probably think that the poor valleyites can be subjected to all sorts of travails till the “Maharajas” move back here. By the time they arrive here in first week of May, the Kashmiris would have been blackmailed to accept this totally inhuman treatment regardless of being in metered or unmetered areas. The officers will then impress the authorities that they have saved a couple of hundred crores at the cost of the local people. The “Maharajas” would be pleased to grant them further extensions and re-employment!
The most pathetic and tragic part of the whole drama is the regulatory authority constituted by the government to oversee the power scenario. It is in all respects an extension of the government even though it is claimed to have quasi-judicial powers. The authority is being headed by a former bureaucrat who makes it move in the traditional tortoise fashion. Probably it might have moved faster and in a more judicial fashion had it been headed by a former judge or a non-bureaucrat. The authority can pass only recommendatory orders and not any mandatory orders. Last year they had issued orders to the power department that it should not indulge in unannounced power curtailment. The department not only threw the orders in a waste paper basket but went beyond the schedules announced in earlier winters. The entire valley was subjected to unscheduled power cuts of the worst kind. There was total disregard of the orders of the authority which did not wake up from its slumber.
The rulers who do not miss any chance to proclaim tourism as the backbone of the economy completely forget that no tourist would like to visit an area subjected to such unscheduled power interruptions. Kashmir seems to have become a bundle of contradictions. On one hand we claim to be prospering with the arrival of millions of tourists while on the other the local people are deprived of the very basic necessities of life be it the LPG, the pot-holed roads, spiralling prices of essential commodities and the worst ever power supply. Not to forget the deteriorating situation of environment. We celebrate the ownership of the largest Tulip Garden of Asia while the very heart of Kashmir, the Dal Lake is dying rapidly. Will we ever get out of this mess? That is the million dollar question!