Power Pangs  – Who is Responsible?

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While commenting on the chronic electricity power crisis of Jammu and Kashmir, the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sina recently admitted the inadequacy in the infrastructure capacity building saying that his administration wanted to purchase more power to meet the demand in the current cold winter but the UT’s transmission and distribution systems have a limited capacity of carrying electricity. This statement of the LG is an honest commentary on the functioning of previous governments. It goes without saying that power crisis is not something that the people of Kashmir Valley are facing first time during the winters. The people have seen even the worst during past years. While one would continue to press the present dispensation to take steps to improve the power supply, need is to look a bit deeper into the issue and see how the previous governments, despite making tall claims, have failed to resolve power related issues.

Thousands of crores of rupees have been pumped into to revamp J&K’s power distribution infrastructure, the Union Territory continues to top in Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses at 60 percent, the highest in entire India. This means, Jammu and Kashmir is suffering a huge gap in the energy it puts into the system and the revenue (payment) it collects for this energy. According to the data by the Ministry of Power, Government of India, the former state had 60.46 percent AT&C losses in 2019-20. The losses are highest in entire India where the average losses in this category are 22 percent. As per the data, over the years thousands of crores of rupees have been spent in overhauling the transmission and destruction infrastructure besides taking to technical up-gradation by the J&K Power Developed Department. The end results are however appalling.

In 2008, the then state embarked up on a Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (R-APDRP) with Rs 872.36 crore aimed at strengthening and up-gradation of sub-transmission and distribution network and adoption of Information Technology. The ambitious programme targeted at reducing the losses to three percent per annum and bringing them to 15 percent within five years. In 2011, Rs 1700 crores were sanctioned for bettering the system in 30 towns and cities under the programme. Dysfunctional meters worth crores of rupees were purchased under the scheme and dumped later on. All this money has gone down the drain and the situation on the ground remains unchanged. The claims of erstwhile governments regarding 100 percent metering of domestic consumers still remains a dream and thousands of unregistered consumers continue to use the energy by greasing the palms of concerned authorities.

It may be mentioned here that Rs 617 crores were approved by the central government in 2015-16 under Deendayal Upadhaya Gram Jyoti Yojana. The money had been granted for strengthening and augmenting the sub-transmission and distribution infrastructure in rural areas. Likewise, sub-stations were to be created at 33/11 kV, 11/.433 kV levels, besides extension of HT Lines and AB cables under the Integrated Power Development Scheme at a cost of Rs 242 crores. Rs 966 crores were also provided under the Prime Minister’s Development Plan for rural and urban areas. The money had been allocated for creation of new 33/11 kV sub-staions, augmentation of existing sub-stations, extensions of HT and LT lines and capacity at distribution level. In 2015, Rs 513 crores had been allocated under the Prime Minister’s Development Plan for strengthening of supply infrastructure, creating new 33/11 kV sub-stations and augmenting existing sub-stations under the plan. But the ground situation continues to remain as pathetic as ever.

It is high time that the present dispensation makes the concerned agencies accountable and comes out with a white paper detailing how and where the money has gone that was supposed to address the power transmission crisis of Jammu and Kashmir. While the LG administration should take all necessary steps to help improve the power supply in UT, those involved in previous scams should be named and shamed.

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