Well done civil society
J&K’s power story is about pain and ugly. A state with a capacity to generate at least 20,000 MW on its waters is without power; pity! Perhaps the best yardstick to gauge the track record of the successive state governments in harnessing this potential. True, it requires a lot of investment to harness this potential and the government beset with acute financial problems could not afford it all from its treasury, yet that should serve no alibi to it in the face of other options available for developing the power projects. The successive state governments, for example, have never given a serious thought to incorporating the Power Development Corporation into a Public Limited Company, seeking public subscriptions, issuing power bonds to raise finances, using its offices through J&K Bank to get syndicated loans, etc. Not just that, the successive governments have not even been able to get the 1975 cabinet decision on power generation in J&K implemented on the ground. The height is that till very recent past, the record of the decision was not even traceable. Resultantly, the projects developed by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, a government of India-owned undertaking, which should have since been returned to J&K, still lie with the Corporation.
Although the successive state dispensations over the years have been clamoring lot for return of these projects, no government as yet has shown the political will to take the bull by its horns. However, there is seemingly a silver lining appearing slowly on the horizon. The civil society of Kashmir has risen to the occasion and stirred its efforts to get these projects back to the state. To begin with, it approached the High Court of J&K through a public interest litigation seeking a direction to the respondents to return 790 MW-Salal and 480 MW-Uri-I power projects to J&K. Appreciating the concern of the civil society, the Division Bench of the High Court while disposing of the PIL permitted the petitioners to make a representation before the union ministry of power and NHPC in this regard. Curiously, the court has directed the respondents to consider and forward the reply to such a representation within a period of four weeks. The court has also given liberty to the petitioners to seek any information relating to the setting up of the projects and requirement of the compliance of various terms which would be beneficial to the subjects of the state. The civil society members had also prayed for detailed information from government of India, state government and the NHPC over “violation” of terms and conditions reached at over execution of various power projects including Salal and Dulhasti. The petitioners had also raised a significant question in their PIL: Why the NHPC and Government of India did not adhere to terms and conditions of the cabinet decision no. 128 dated June 21, 1975 and a communication of State Power Development Department (No. PD-IV/243/72 dated July 7, 1975) pertaining to setting up of Salal? Interestingly, the civil society group has found support from the Employees Joint Action Committee (K), which has assured support and cooperation of 5.5 lakh state employees to this “struggle”.
Few would disagree that when it comes to strengthening the Kashmir economy, return of these projects cannot be wished away. Government of India, which is apparently showing much concern for stimulating the state economy, needs to appreciate that if anything mars the health of the state economy, it is the huge burden of power purchase bill. In its Annual Requirement Program for the current fiscal, the Power Development Department (PDD) has projected that JK’s power purchase cost would jump to Rs 2,944 crore. That means a large chunk of state’s budget goes into meeting this expenditure. That J&K is already mired in a vicious debt trap hardly needs to be emphasized. As per the reports, liabilities of the state government soared to Rs 29,925 crore at the end of 2010-11. Amid this situation, the return of these projects would be an antidote to the ailing state economy. It would not just strengthen state finances but also help its industry grow. The civil society initiative is a welcome step, however, it remains to be seen how vigorously it will do the follow up.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 2 Aug 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 2 Aug 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 3 Aug 2011 00:00:00 IST
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