Human life has progressed to previously unimagined levels of development. Man has moved beyond the Moon & Mars and unraveled great mysteries of the universe. The modern scientific discoveries and technological inventions have enormously increased the realm, range and sphere of influence of human species in the universal scheme of things. There are innumerable areas of life where humans have achieved great degree of independence which was not previously the case. However, the terrific scientific progress, technological developments and the extraordinary pace of human life is dependent upon some basic elements, energy is one of them. Electricity, being one of the main forms of energy available to man, has attained such a great importance that if its supply is snapped for a brief period of time simultaneously throughout the world, the human life will cease to exist. Moreover, the supply and availability of electricity is an essential indicator of development of a nation and its unavailability, or insufficient supply, an indicator of backwardness of that nation. Hence, human life in the current times is completely dependent on electricity.
Realizing this all the countries of the world have made, and continue to make, huge investments for the generation of electricity and its subsequent transmission and distribution. It is the outcome of these investments that many countries have made great progress towards achieving self- sufficiency in respect of electricity. Some of the countries have not only become self-sufficient but they produce surplus of it and export the same to get foreign exchange. India also has invested appreciably in the area of electricity generation and the related areas and has achieved substantial success. The country is fast approaching to the stage of self sufficiency in electricity and there are many areas in this country which are already receiving uninterrupted supply of electricity since long. However, the discouraging fact is that on the contrary there are other areas in the country which are still decades, if not centuries behind. The state of Jammu & Kashmir is one such region which is reeling under darkness in this age of light.
Further, the story of Jammu & Kashmir is more painful than all the other electricity deficient regions of the country. While the other electricity deficient areas are deficient in potential, generation and supply of electricity, the state of Jammu & Kashmir is deficient in supply only. The potential and generation of electricity in the state is much above than what is the requirement. Most of the electricity generated in this state is supplied to the other parts of the country and the still greater potential for electricity generation has remained unharnessed. The water resource, which in the contemporary globalized world has become more precious a resource, of the state is exploited by the outside agencies. The main among them is the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC). The NHPC is the main agency which undertakes the projects of electricity generation in the state, in agreement with the state government, and has already commissioned many such projects. The generation capacity of the already executed power projects by the NHPC is much beyond the electricity needs of the state. But, the level of exploitation is such that the state gets a paltry 12% of the electricity generated from the power projects that are operational in this State. Thus, the major part of the state remains in a state of perpetual darkness and the electricity generated from her waters is used to light the major part of the Northern India.
The second major thing that has dented the electricity generation in the state is the neglect shown by the subsequent governments towards this sector. When electricity, which is the main driver of development, is neglected, it consequently leads to backwardness and the prosperity of people also gets compromised. The same is the case with the State of Jammu and Kashmir. After the Indian Independence and the onset of popularly elected governments in the state, the electricity generation should have been the top priority but unfortunately it has not been so. There has never been any sincere effort on part of the government to lay adequate stress on the power sector. The painful thing is that even after the passage of around seven years from independence the situation has not changed much and the neglect continues. Amidst all this the bilateral Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan has hurt the prospects of power development and the other interests of the state even further.
Now, the situation is that the past has gone and the present is fast receding fast from our hands. We cannot allow the pathetic state of power scenario to linger over our heads till eternity. It is time to take bold decisions to improve the power scenario in the state. So there is no alternative than to ensure the return of the power projects back from NHPC especially the ones which are due to be returned to the state as per the provisions of the agreements between the state government and the NHPC. The return of the projects needs to be ensured by a vigorous campaign at the governmental level, backed by the popular support. It should be made clear to the Central Government its agencies, in no uncertain terms, to respect the provision of the agreements and respect the aspirations of the people. In a democracy, as India is, there is nothing more important that the aspirations of the people. In case they fail to comply with the provisions of the agreement, adequate legal means must be utilized. The government should give up the reluctance in pursuing this genuine cause.
The rest of the power projects which are being fed by the waters of the state need also be bought back from the NHPC. The water belongs to us and so must belong the power projects on that water. We never claimed, and will never claim, any share out of the resources that lie beyond the borders of this state but we must claim what is our own. Once our power needs are satisfied we will provide the surplus power to the outside states on reasonably cheap rates. Hence, the government should look for the adequate resources from the appropriate sources to buy the projects from NHPC. This may seem utopian at the moment, this may seem impossible in the current circumstance but with the sincere governmental efforts and popular support it is achievable.
The state government has to work on multiple fronts to deal with the power problem. On one hand it has to deal with the Central Government and its agencies and on the other the state government has to initiate all the necessary measures to make optimum use of the water resources that we have. It is the optimum utilization of water resources which can take the state higher on the developmental trajectory. We have enough water that the electricity generated from it can be made as a product of export to gain foreign exchange. The state government should give up all the indolence and procrastination and be proactive to ensure first to make the state self sufficient in power generation and then generate enough of it to be exported as a product to the power deficient regions.
As a short term measure to ensure somewhat satisfactory supply of electricity in the state, the government should minimize all the transmission and distribution losses by making the field apparatus of the Power Development Department more accountable. The illegal electricity users can be given an ultimatum to legalize their connections within a stipulated time frame and if they fail to comply appropriate legal proceedings should be initiated against the defaulters. The officials of this department who collude with the illegal power users must also be taken to task. The people on their part should realize their responsibilities and shun the attitude of irresponsibility. They should come forward to plug the illegal leakages from the electricity supply chain. This attitude of the people can go a long in streamlining the transmission and distribution of electricity and ensuring some supply for those area also which are generally kept in darkness.
Thus, the electricity scenario in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, especially the scenario of electricity in Jammu during the months of summer heat and that in Kashmir during the harsh winters, is as if we live in the dark ages. There are areas where the voltage is so low that it makes no difference between power and no power and there are those areas where electricity remains off for months altogether. The inhabitants of these areas could not even charge their mobile phones to remain in touch with the outside world. Yes, these people belong to the twenty first century but their condition is such that it seems they are yet to see the highway of development. This situation has given rise to a sense of resentment among these people and it has created a sense of alienation.
Hence, it is a matter which needs urgent attention. Keeping the people of the state in dark, when they have every right and resource to be in light, is a violation of the fundamental rights of the people. The people can never be against supplying electricity that is generated on the resource of the state to other parts of the country but the only after the local needs are satisfied. Without that it is sheer discrimination, and exploitation and no democratic government likes discrimination. The same should be the attitude of the largest democracy of the world towards the people of Jammu & Kashmir; it must return the power projects to this State. This is only in our interest but it is conducive also for the cordial centre state relations. Lets hope the lovers of democracy in India understand this and give us our due. We belong to an exploited state but the exploitation has to end one day, let this be that day.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.