The Power Development Department (PDD) recently announced its latest power curtailment schedule for the Kashmir valley. As per this new schedule, the power curtailment, in both, metered and non-metered areas has been increased. The metered areas will suffer power curtailment of 17 hours while the non-metered areas will face it for 57 hours a week.
This step is nothing more than adding to the woes of the people in Kashmir. With the onset of winter and the mercury already dipping below the freezing point, this new schedule adds to the spiraling energy costs that Kashmiris have to bear to keep themselves going during the harsh winters. The secretariat has already moved to Jammu in early November and there is hardly any sign of the Govt around in the valley. This is actually the time when the valley needs the government to be close to it.
The move has triggered anger and resentment among the people who are already facing LPG shortages. People living outside the valley have a completely romantic notion of Kashmir in winters. They associate it with beautiful snow capped mountains and winter sports in Gulmarg. But for an ordinary Kashmiri, winter is nothing less than experiencing hell. With shortage of electricity, the hoarders of LPG have a field day, with black marketers sucking the blood of common Kashmiris. The energy related inflation in Kashmir is perhaps the highest anywhere in India.
It would be in place here to mention that the power curtailment schedule announced by the PDD is the official version of the load shedding in Kashmir. Kashmiris know well that PDD never sticks to this schedule and the actual power cuts are far more than officially declared ones. Another important factor to note is that this schedule doesnt work at all in the rural areas of Kashmir where power cuts on a daily basis stretch anywhere between 16-18 hours a day. Many areas in rural Kashmir dont get power sometimes for days on a stretch. Add to that the fact that in many areas the transformers do not work and the concerned department hardly bothers about repairing or replacing them. In most such cases, it is the locals who have to take an initiative to repair such broken down transformers. Such arrogance and callousness on part of the power department adds to the sufferings of Kashmiris during these harsh winters.
The power crisis in Kashmir accentuated during the years of militancy in the 90s. But with normalcy returning to the valley, one expected the Govt to be accountable to the people who voted it to power. But it seems the bogey of militancy is still being used by the Govt officials to hide their ineptness and lethargy. Most areas in Kashmir, including rural Kashmir were metered a few years back. With that positive step, people were well within their rights to expect a better and more organized power supply, especially in the winter months. But nothing much has changed for the common Kashmiri. Each day is a new challenge. With the winter vacations for schools and colleges round the corner and with hardly any outdoor activities possible in winter, Kashmiri students generally utilize the winter months studying and completing the syllabus of their new classes. But with such acute shortage of power, it is extremely difficult for them to study, especially in the evenings, which incidentally start early during winter months.
It is high time that the J & K Govt takes note of the suffering of people in the valley, especially in winter on account of acute power shortage and mitigates their suffering. Perhaps it is time for opening the old debate about renegotiating power agreements with NHPC and also for the State to look into the problem of addressing the T & D losses.
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