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‘Govt won’t seek return of NHPC plants if royalty hiked’

The Mehbooba Mufti-led government might no longer demand the return of power projects from the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation. It would instead press the government of India for raising the share of free power given to the state, according to senior government officials.

“There is zero progress on issue (return of projects) despite many meetings between ministers and top officials from both the state and center in the past,” a senior official, privy to the development, disclosed  “But nothing is happening on the ground…the government will now instead actively pursue demand for increase in power as royalty from NHPC projects to the state,” said the official who didn’t want to be named. But he was quick to say that: “it doesn’t mean we will give up on the demand for return of power projects.”

Every time the state has raised the demand for the return of the power projects from the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, it has got a snub from the government of India. The successive union power ministers have openly talked against the return of the projects, as agreed upon by ruling the PDP and BJP, in their Agenda of Alliance. Even top NHPC officials have in the past talked against the idea to give back the projects.

Amid this stiff opposition from the union power ministry and the Corporation to one of the key components in the agenda, described as sacred by both the PDP and BJP, it has been reliably learnt that state government may take foot off the demand for return of projects and instead seek increase in free power given to J&K from NHPC-owned projects in the state. The state power minister Sunil Kumar Sharma said he wasn’t authorised to speak about Agenda of Alliance.

In the agenda it is clearly mentioned that in order to address real source of J&K’s fiscal problem and pave way for making J&K fiscally autonomous, the state government would work with the union government to explore modalities for the transfer of the 390-MW Dulhasti and 480-MW Uri-I hydro power projects to J&K as suggested by the Rangarajan Committee Report and the Round Table reports.

A top NHPC official though said the Corporation has already made its position clear to the power ministry about the transfer of the projects. “Once you give concession to one state others will follow with the same demand and there will be no stopping,” said the official.

To a question whether the Corporation would agree to an increase in power share to J&K, the official said the decision lies with the power ministry.

“Though there has been no discussion on this issue the problem is how other states will agree to this imbalanced act,” the NHPC official said.

According to a power department official at present the state gets 12 percent free power as royalty from NHPC projects apart from one percent free power for the local area development.

In the past successive governments have repeatedly raised the demand for increasing free power share to the state to 25 percent but it has never been taken up officially with the union government.

The agenda however makes a mention about the revision of all royalty agreements and securing a share for J&K in profits of NHPC emanating from J&K waters.

In October last year the union power minister RK Singh told  here that the NHPC owned power projects in J&K don’t belong to anyone but entire country. “…NHPC project set up with government of India’s money in J&K don’t give power to the state (J&K) only, but every state gets a share of energy from these projects,” he had said.

His predecessor PiysuhGoyal had in 2016 not only ruled out the transfer of projects but even opposed an increase in the state’s power share from the Corporation and granting a share from profits earned by the Corporation from its projects in J&K to the state.

The government spokesman and senior PDP minister Naeem Akhter evaded a direct response to the query whether the government has decided to give up on the return of the projects and sought a raise in the power share.

He said Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti raised the demand for the implementation of agenda before Prime Minister NarendraModi during his day long visit to Kashmir.

“It was for first time that Prime Minister was apprised about the need for implementation of roadmap publicly. Till now it was being discussed on files only but now it is open discourse. This (implementation of agenda) is the minimum that government of India can do to solve Kashmir,” Akhter said.

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