The Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal gave us some homilies about the power projects across the country and how the share of the states is determined wherever National Hydro-Electric Projects Corporation is running the projects. So, Jammu and Kashmir cannot claim any special entitlement. Besides, he clarified in no uncertain terms that there was no question of returning the NHPC- run projects to this state.
There is no other state in the country bound by the Indus Water Treaty as Jammu and Kashmir is. Punjab's rivers are controlled by it and it is the beneficiary. Jammu and Kashmir has very limited rights, and its waters have enriched Pakistan purely because of the IWT. Despite these limitations, J&K could have performed much better than it did or did not. The state took everything for granted. No effort was ever made to utilize the water resources in a manner that would have benefitted the state and enriched its potential in other sectors, especially industries. It is a painful chapter in the economic and political history of Jammu and Kashmir.
Apart from the political turmoil and the uncertainty that this state offered to itself and to outsiders, its water resources were underutilized. Those were not utilized by the state at all is a better statement. This tells us that how unimaginative policy makers and the political leadership we have had. Now, when there is a drastic decline in the water resources because of the climate change, political patronage to encroaches of the water bodies and greater demand of ever-growing larger population, the water has become a big source of contest.
Mr. Goyal should have known that Jammu and Kashmir is both a special status and special category state. He should have also known that twice C. Rangrajan Committee had recommended that the state should be returned at least two of its power projects. He should have also known that during the discussions on Agenda of the Alliance between PDP and BJP on the government formation, the power projects were under the broad spotlight : second time, when there was a re-assessment of the AoA before Mehbooba Mufti agreed to become the Chief Minister, these projects were in the core items ; there was also an unspoken and unwritten agreement that J&K would get much larger share – to be exact 25 per cent -of the power generated from these projects if those were to stay with NHPC.
And, if Mr. Goyal is not aware of all this, he should ask the people who negotiated and re-negotiated the AoA in early months of 2015 and 2016. BJP's national general secretary Mr. Ram Madhav should come out with details of the negotiations. A frame of trust that was sought to be built anew before the PDP-BJP reaffirmed their faith in each other has been shaken, and shaken very badly. It is being as blunt as Mr. Goyal was.
One would agree that NHPC invested thousands of crores of rupees, and like any investor it must have been looking for profits. That is given.. But what is not given is that the NHPC cannot determine the share of Jammu and Kashmir the way it was done decades ago. An expected answer is that the NHPC came with its money and expertise and entered the J&K with agreement with the state governments of the time and most importantly, it has delivered on its promise of 12 per cent royalty. It also cannot be held responsible for non-utilisation of its water resources by the state in spite of the Indus Water Treaty of 1960. There was a much larger scope to utilize the resources. It can also point out that the state government could not run Baglihar project – its first mega project. The NHPC had to be requested to run it in 2009. It also is a fact that Baglihar project is an epitome of high corruption – all political parties and governments had their pound of flesh from the contractors who constructed the project. The poor quality of material used in the construction of the dam was revealed when it could not withstand the flash floods in early 2005. It is a disaster-threatening dam.
Having said that, the NHPC cannot ignore the new realities in Jammu and Kashmir. If it doesn't want to return the projects, it is duty bound to enhance the power share of the state. This is not an economic but political necessity too, the contours and content of which are best known to the party Mr. Goyal belongs to. In case of any doubt, please refer to Dr Haseeb Drabu.