As on date, notwithstanding the erratic and irregular supply as a normal phenomenon, we have at least 350 villages in Kashmir that are without electricity. This is the state of affairs in a place where the established potential of hydro power is as huge as 20,000 MW. It is pity that while the technological advancements are sweeping the world, the valley continues to live in the Dark Age. Successive Governments have been promising us a great deal about improving the power scenario, even making promises to get back the power projects. They have been coming and going without doing a bit on the ground. Promises always remained confined to rhetoric and nothing is ever planned and executed to make any visible change worth mentioning. The fact is that the valley turns into a ghost town with the onset of the winter with everything turning gloomy, thus depriving us of the pleasures of winter. So bad and disturbing is the situation that the SHRC issued notice to PDD for “resorting to unscheduled power cuts in both metered and non meted areas besides erratic and irregular power supply”.
This year the power situation had turned inconsistent and irregular even before the advent of the winter. The early snowfall in the first week of November just threw a spanner in the system providing PDD enough excuses for the dreary power situation post snowfall. The weather improved but the power woes continued and stayed, in fact worsened. The average duration of power cuts has risen considerably over last 2 weeks. One fails to keep a trail of the availability or the non- availably of power. Now the department is planning to regularise, not the supply but the cuts and the curtailment. It may be noted that while the curtailment and the cut schedules are religiously followed, there is no guarantee for the availability during the ‘on’ period.
The pitiable power scenario is always attributed to conduction and distribution losses, the power theft and non judicious use by the consumers, production depletion, decreased supply and increased demand. Over the years the government and the concerned department have resorted to same rhetoric to justify the power woes. But never ever do they plan and find a solution to these problems. As a matter of fact the remedy of all the ills in the system lies with the department. If a consumer steals your power and you know it, you are supposed to put an end to it. Only you can find a solution to transmission losses which, if figures are to be believed are as high as 40%. That is probably just around the actual shortfall we encounter. As a service provider, the department is supposed to know in advance the demand levels and the supply potential.
Jammu and Kashmir is blessed with tremendous water resources abundantly available with absolute viability all across the state. If harnessed, it could transform our economy and could give a flip to overall socio-economic development not only in the state but in the entire region. Water as a resource could form the base for our hydroelectric power thus providing a critical input not only for our economic activities but also as a large source of state revenue. It is most unfortunate that state is not able to harness this natural gift to even half of its potential. And whatever power is generated has been clandestinely pledged to NHPC with a little share worth peanuts left to states’ disposal. A meagre leftover is just not sufficient for our own demands. And we do not have funds to buy back some of the gifted power for our own survival. It comes back at a very huge price. And at the top of it, it is rationed or the return transmission lines are not strong enough to carry it back to us.
The PDD must know that the demand graph of the electricity will incline as winter proceeds. They have to plan an enhanced supply for the months much before the winter actually sets in. The department has to bear in mind that with arrival of more and more electricity driven gadgets sneaking into our offices, homes and other work places is an unavoidable phenomenon, the demand for the power will always be on the higher side. With increasing urbanisation, the conventional and traditional means of heating homes and offices and water depend on electricity. Hence growth in the demand and consumption of electricity year after year is an established phenomenon which the department must consider and accept, and must gear up in advance to meet the challenges. The department is expected to offer solutions to the problems which are clearly identified and well known. One cannot shy away from the modernity of the life and the very dependence of life on the electricity. As a service provider PDD is supposed to provide the commodity to the consumer, rather the customer who is paying for the commodity as per the rates agreed upon rather forced upon. The consumers or the customers have never argued the rate structure. What they are agitated about is the non availability of the product which the department is supposed to supply. PDD often complains that they do not have the cash to pay generating firms. The problem could be solved by better bill collection and by reducing power theft by those using unauthorised and unmetered grid links. If the department is not able to bill the consumers effectively or are facing defaulted recovery, they are themselves to blame.
One wonders whether Jammu Kashmir can be a part of the GoI’s 16000 cr Saubhagaya Scheme 2017. The scheme promises uninterrupted electricity for all by March 2019. The ground situation in Jammu & Kashmir tells us that we are far from the dream of uninterrupted power supply. As per union power minister, the distribution and transmission losses will be reduced to 15% and it has been agreed upon by all the states. “We have to reduce losses by January 2019 to ensure 24×7 power for all by March 2019. It is agreed that the (distribution) losses would be reduced to below 15 per cent by January 2019,” the power minister said while unveiling the Saubhagiya Scheme.
One wonders what the state has done to reduce the loss which is the biggest factor for the winter power miseries. The department has to look beyond the curtailment schedules to overcome the recurring crisis.
Having said that, we as a society can’t absolve ourselves from our own responsibilities to reduce the pressure on the PDD. How can a civilized society justify indulging in stealing the power which is a priced public commodity. Aren’t those indulging in such acts stealing the very commodity which would make their own lives and that of fellow citizens more comfortable? Stealing the power and putting the entire society to trouble is a double crime. It is condemnable and punishable in every law and every religion.
Even those who pay for every single unit for power have a responsibility. The supply quota being limited, the commodity must be used judiciously. Lot of electricity can be saved through judicious and careful usage. If both the service provider and the consumer do their bit, things will for sure improve. Return of the power projects or commissioning of new ones may be long drawn dream, our own efforts and that of the department could come handy in overcoming the shortfalls to a great extent.