The J&K RTI Movement Chairman Dr Shaikh Ghulam Rasool calls for complete transparency in the ongoing negotiations between the Government of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K Govt) and the Government of India (GoI) regarding the transfer of hydro-electric (hydel) projects in the State, currently being executed by NHPC Ltd. Data recently revealed under the Central Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) shows that between 2001-2015, the NHPC has earned at least Rs. 194 billion (Rs. 19,431 crores) from the sale of power generated by the hydel projects based in J&K.
The NHPC and operates seven hydroelectric power projects in the J&K which include Salal, Uri-I, Dulhasti, Sewa-II, Uri-II, Chutak and Nimmo Bazgo. Official documents reveal that NHPC has generated 1,15,636 million units of power from these projects from 2001 to March 2016. Seven hydel projects were handed over to the NHPC for funding, execution and operation over a period of 10 years under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the J&K Govt. and GoI. The MoU was inked in the year 2000 in order to help J&K in its overall development apart from meeting its winter peak electricity requirements.
The power generation and sale data released by the NHPC under the RTI Act, shows that a total of 15,636 MUs (million units) of power were generated by these seven hydel projects in J&K from 2001 up to March 2016. However data regarding the sale of power by NHPC to various utilities has been made available only up to 2015. Under the 2000 MoU, J&K is to receive 12% of the power generated at these hydel projects free of charge. In addition to this quota, the MoU allows for the sale of 15% of the total quantum of power generated to J&K Govt. at bus bar rates.
More than 2/3rds of the power generated in J&K is sold to utilities outside J&K. Punjab is the largest buyer of power generated in J&K followed by Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, in that order. According to NHPC data, the power generated by Chutak and Nimmo Bazgo hydel projects is being sold only to J&K.
The data revealed on account of the RTI plea suggests that JK is a power surplus state. This comes as a surprise largely because the truth trotted out by various departments of the state never ceases to remind us of the power deficit nature of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The continuous power cuts- scheduled or otherwise-especially in winter make the lives of people miserable and render our commerce and business rather dysfunctional impinging negatively on the overall economic growth and development of the vale.
Another truth trotted out by authorities and powers that be is the alleged resource paucity of Kashmir. The RTI report makes it clear that our major natural resource is water which can be cannibalized into electricity and then used for domestic purposes and fill in the power gap and then sold to other states. This would besides alleviating the power supply problems of the vale also enhance our economic growth and development, leading to more economic output. In the process, our budgetary miseries the perpetual fiscal deficits- would be reduced to a great extent.
What would be most significant would be the political effect or impact: our state would be less dependent on hand- outs doled out by the Centre to the state. In the Centre State financial relations would be more balanced and the asymmetric federalism the differential status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir vis-à-vis the Union- would be imparted teeth; it would be real than notional and theoretical.
The resistance displayed by the Centre to the demands or even requests by the state to hand over the power projects in contention suggests that more than the profit motive and pure commerce is involved here. It would appear that the resistance stems from and is predicated on politics. That is, the Centre does not want to disturb the NHPC apple cart because it fears fiscal autonomy of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In other words, fiscal autonomy and empowerment of JK , the Centre may be fearing, would make Kashmiris obstreperous- cantankerous in terms of politics. The Centres fear that fiscal empowerment of Kashmiris could lead to first minimalist demands (autonomy) and embolden the denizens of Kashmir to make maximalist demands.
Admittedly, this is speculation but given the absence of a convincing alternative explanation for the Centres truculent resistance, tour theory or speculation appears plausible. The implication and meaning for the states politics is then clear: whosoever forms the government in JK, will either not press for the return of the NHPC projects or if the government in contention presses for the return, it will be stonewalled at the Centre.
This constitutes a travesty because ultimately Kashmir and Kashmiris are being deprived of a capital yielding resource whose return and ownership by Kashmiris could alter the economic map of Kashmir. Sans economic empowerment of this nature, Kashmir will always be dependent on the Centre with its politics denuded by the political economy of refusal to return the projects to Kashmir. Our economy will be consumption and consumerist economy with real capital sucked out of here and capital gains made by any other party other than Kashmiris. If our theory stands scrutiny and is true, then Kashmir faces a very bleak future-both economic and political. A tragedy is then in the making. Alas!
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