Power has been illusive especially during winters for a long time now. However, the way it is playing hide and seek well before the start of the winter does not forbade well. The forthcoming winter may be the worst ever seen in terms of the electric power. According to power development authorities the demand in Kashmir alone is in the range of 1,100 mw or so while as the generation gets reduced to few hundred odd mw due to freezing resulting in lesser discharge in the rivers. Added to this are the transmission and distribution losses estimated to be the highest in the country. The only option is to import electricity at commercial rates from the northern grid. Unfortunately, it is the electricity generated from our own rivers which we have to buy back, thanks to our rulers, past as well as present. They have mortgaged our precious resources for their own vested interests.
The most unfortunate part of the tragedy is that the common people were made to believe that the so called development of the state is going to bring them on par with the most modern facilities. It would have been better if one had stuck to traditional ways of facing the severe winters. The winters now are not so severe nor do we have the amount of snowfall which we used to see in our childhood. Srinagar used to get over three to four feet of snow at a time in winters. There used to be long icicles dangling from the roofs which mostly used to be shingle or so. Dal Lake would quite often freeze and it is said that sometime in the past even river Jhelum used to freeze! The snowfall would be so blinding sometimes that the migratory birds would fall in peoples’ lawns! In spite of such severe winters, people were mentally and physically prepared to face these.
In old times, for cooking, the firewood burnt in earthen hearths was the common standard. Every home had a hearth which would burn firewood for cooking and at the back there was a copper vessel for heating water. For lighting, people used lanterns, oil lamps and in villages next to the forests pine wood sticks with resin called “lashi” in Kashmiri. For heating, charcoal especially one prepared by burning dry chinar leaves, was used in kangri under the traditional robe, Pheran. Kangri has been part of our culture from the earliest times. For winters people used to sun dry all sorts of vegetables as there would be no fresh vegetables available. Now with the so called modernisation and progress things have changed. People have become used to running everything on electrical power. Cooking, heating, cleaning and so on. No doubt it is progress in keeping with the modern world but the basis of all this progress is electrical power. We were fortunate enough to have a tremendous source of cleanest energy. Hydro-electric power. Abundant and massive potential. Environmentally clean. Unfortunately, all mortgaged by our own people leaving us in the lurch.
It may not be practically possible to go back to the traditional ways now at this advanced stage of “progress”. We are now totally dependent on outside help right from our food to even manual labour. Perfect “Lotus Eaters” of the Ulysses! The worst part of the modernisation process has been the deliberate development of a subsidy culture right from the early fifties. Everything from rice to power has been subsidised. We have been made totally dependent on dole! Bribed in every possible way to toe a particular narrative. Having ingested all the bribes but still refusing to toe the narrative naturally infuriates the bribe giver. The best revenge for the dole giver would be like taking a thirsty horse to the river to drink and then muddying the water to make it die of thirst!
Kashmir touted world over as the “Paradise on Earth” turns into a virtual hell during winter, at least for the local population. The visitors may be getting some special treatment but sometimes even they run away due to severe conditions accentuated by unstable and erratic power. Yes, we could be literally living in “Paradise” if only we had the electric power. God Almighty did bestow us with a “Paradise” like home with all the abundant resources but we ourselves turned it into a hell. You name any activity, it is in a mess. The worst of all is the power mess! We may have to live with it for a long time. The current winter may give us a taste of what we should be expecting during future winters, the worst nightmare!
Is there proverbial “light” at the end of the tunnel? Yes, every grim situation has a solution. As the border roads sign goes, “Difficult can be done now, impossible may take some time”! The whole power scenario needs a complete revamp right from the generation to the distribution to the consumers. The revamp may be difficult but not impossible. That revamp will be effective only if everyone is honest about it. Beginning with the consumers, the engineers, and above all the rulers have to be honest. It is said that honesty like water flows from top downwards. So the first task is to get honest rulers. That in the present context may be a really impossible task!