Selective power reform

The government’s decision of opening new police stations in Srinagar and Jammu to specifically take legal action on consumers who steal electricity is debatable.

Jammu & Kashmir's power losses are a matter of genuine concern. Technically speaking, 62 percent Aggregate Technical and Commercial losses (ATCL) and 53 percent Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses are really big. But what are the finer details of these losses? Do they happen because household consumers steal it? Do they happen due to power infrastructural deficiencies? Do they happen due to stealing by commercial establishments? Or do they happen due to misuse and stealing by government's own civilian, military and paramilitary establishments?

The truth is that the cumulative power losses happen due to all of these reasons. The government's decision of opening new police stations in Srinagar and Jammu to specifically take legal action on consumers who steal electricity is debatable. If implemented with efficiency and without corruption it is possible that this measure would be able to cut some losses. However, it has its own cons.

Making enforcement by police agencies an integral element of civilian governance doesn't augur well for J&K state, which already suffers from excessive presence of police and military in domains that are best dealt with by civilian government structures. The second reason that this measure is unlikely to make much difference is because it would hardly be able to take actions against various organs of the government itself that misuse and steal electricity. When we analyse the geographical presence and the magnitude of the use of electricity by those organs, it is unlikely that punitive measures aimed at civilian consumers would have much impact. Various government departments of J&K owed Rs 1366.86 crores to the Power Development Department in 2013.

Then 67 government departments of Jammu region owed Rs 978.17 crores and 52 departments in Kashmir valley owed Rs 388. 69 crores to PDD. Things must be worse today. Under these circumstances it is unclear how this selective reform measure would be impactful in cutting power losses. Even as the Rs 1665 crore Restructured-APDRP would help reduce AT&C losses in the coming two years, there is no substitute for an across-the-board reform that focuses on overall accountability and not selective punitive measures.  

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