In recent memory, the current year is witnessing the worst ever power scenario. One is not sure when the supply will come on and how long will it stay. Every day people are on streets in one or the other part of the valley. If anything is going to throw Omar Abdullah out of the political power, it will be the electric power. His government has miserably failed to provide power supply on a regular basis not even to the people who are paying for it in the metered areas. If there are people committing power theft even in these metered areas, it is the failure of his government to check it. No pilferage is possible without the connivance of the local authorities may be even at the level of a lineman. There is loud talk about power theft but apart from the staff, the politicians themselves intervene to save the culprits hauled up by the department. This is especially true in the downtown area where a minister shields power thieves as reported by the concerned engineers. In any case, it has been pointed out by many analysts that the valley people are paying more tariff than the people across Pirpanjal but still the sufferers are the valleyites! They have been left to fend for themselves while the rulers enjoy the luxuries of the “Durbar” in Jammu.
Among the colder countries Kashmir must be the most unfortunate one especially with the massive potential of hydro-electric power. In most of the colder countries especially in Europe winter is the time to put in one’s best efforts for work. The students also toil in winter and study in schools. There are no winter vacations. Everybody takes off in summer to enjoy. This is because they have enough electric power to undertake every activity. Homes are heated. Offices are heated. Schools are heated. Transport is heated. In our case, we are the most unfortunate to have abundant resources but not enough power. Winter is an ordeal here. A real punishment for the poor! Schools are closed. Most of the establishments lack heating facilities. On one hand we invite tourists from all over the world while on the other hand we are not able to provide them a warm place to stay. Sometimes they shiver and runaway.
Enough has been written about the causes of this debacle. We have ourselves been instrumental in allowing others to rob us of our precious resources. When our two neighbours divided our waters among themselves with international arbitration, they did not even bother to think about our future. They were solely concerned with their own future. Nor did the international agency give any thought about the local people living in the land whose waters they were dividing. The territory had been declared by no less an agency than the United Nations to be disputed. They should have kept a provision for the local people especially regarding power generation. Kashmiris have every right to approach the World Bank that brokered the deal to demand compensation for their loss. The treaty violates the fundamental rights of the Kashmiri people. The least one can ask is supplying of the power to the local people at the generation cost by the outside agencies generating it.
The worst ever power scenario is not limited only to lack of enough generation because of the dwindling of water in the rivers due to freezing and the absence of storage schemes. There are grave problems within the transmission and the distribution system. The entire set up needs an overhaul to bring down the transmission and distribution losses. Sometime back privatisation of distribution was mooted but the vote bank politics shelved the proposal. Revamping distribution and privatising it is a tall order in the present set up corrupt to the core! One solution to cut distribution losses and prevent theft could be replacing the archaic overhead system by using underground cabling. It may not be possible in older quarters of the city but all the new colonies and posh localities could go for it. That would prevent hooking! There could be many other solutions but who will bell the cat? The present rulers sold the “Dream” of “Bijli” during the last election but they took people from the light into darkness. What will they sell now? Even as manipulators of the votes they appear to be dumb. Instead of spending thousands of crores on unproductive recreational items like Golf Courses and Cable Cars, they could have easily spent a few hundred crores to buy more power from the northern grid and given people some light during the last winter of their tenure as a parting gift. On the contrary they are taking revenge in advance apprehending their exit!
The darkness of winters seems destined to stay on in Kashmir till the power generation copes up with the demand, which may not happen at least in our lifetime and till the “Durbar” keeps on moving to Jammu for winter comforts. In the meantime, it may be more sensible for the power department, based on their resources to notify people the hours of availability of power so that they plan their activities accordingly. On an average there is 8 to 10 hours curtailment every day in metered as well as unmetered areas. However, the curtailment schedule, to which the department never sticks, annoys people more in view of dozens of unscheduled interruptions disrupting life in every possible way!