Jammu- Stating that Jammu and Kashmir is a challenge as far as providing round-the-clock electricity to consumers is concerned, Union minister R K Singh on Sunday said the Centre would spend "liberally" to tap the immense potential of the Union Territory in the sector to make it a power-surplus region.
However, he said a conducive atmosphere to facilitate large-scale investments and improving the work culture are imperative to bring Jammu and Kashmir at par with other parts of the country, after it lagged behind due to "corruption" during the previous regimes.
"It is painful that Jammu and Kashmir, despite having the best available resources in the country to generate power, is lagging behind in providing round-the-clock electricity to consumers...the previous governments are directly responsible for the present state of affairs," Singh said.
The Union minister of state for power was speaking after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Jammu and Kashmir government and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) for the implementation of the 850-MW Ratle HEP and 930-MW Kirthai-II HEP and the execution of the Sawalkot HEP (1,856 MW), Uri-I (Stage-II-240 MW) and Dulhasti (Stage-II-258 MW) power projects, worth Rs 34,000 crore, here.
Singh also said there is no other place in the country where barbed wire is being used to provide electricity to consumers.
"The lack of development over the past seven decades is because of the previous governments. They should be held accountable as to where the money pumped by the Centre had gone. Compared to other places in the country, Jammu and Kashmir was getting more funds, but the centrally-sponsored schemes saw very slow progress," he said.
Without naming anyone, he alleged that leaders of political parties have deceived people to fill up their coffers, build mansions in London, Rome and Paris but left Jammu and Kashmir backward.
Singh said electricity is key for the development of any region. "Without power, you cannot move ahead. Power is the fundamental requirement to improve quality of life and industrialisation...if you do not have power, you cannot achieve development and if there is no development, you would not be able to generate employment," he said.
Singh said when he took over as the power minister and came to Jammu and Kashmir in October 2017, he was surprised to see that the work on centrally-sponsored schemes like the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana had not started even after a lapse of three years.
"Various such schemes are yet to be completed. We need to improve the work culture and speed up the work on these schemes, which are meant for the benefit of people," he said.
The minister said Jammu and Kashmir has the resources and potential to achieve surplus power generation.
"There is a need to create an atmosphere where people from outside will come for investments here. The Centre will spend liberally to make Jammu and Kashmir a power-surplus region," Singh said.
He said the Union Territory is a challenge as far as providing round-the-clock power to consumers is concerned.
"We will improve the power supply to the consumers and are working in this direction. The Union Territory status to Jammu and Kashmir has sped up development in the region and we are hopeful of achieving our target," Singh said.
However, he said people will have to pay for electricity in accordance with their consumption. "There will be no free power and you will be able to switch it on only when you pay for it," he said.
The minister lauded Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha for his efforts to fast-track development projects to bring Jammu and Kashmir at par with other parts of the country and said it is the responsibility of everyone to strengthen his efforts.
"Why people from outside are not willing to come here is a question that needs an answer. We need to think over it. You have to allow them to work here and work together for the creation of such an atmosphere so that they can come and invest," he said.
Singh said the Centre will not allow funds to become an impediment in the completion of projects.
"As demanded by the LG, we have no problem in providing services to our officers and companies. Companies like the NHPC will outsource contracts to outsiders and you have to allow them to work here in a conducive atmosphere," he said.
Advising the Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Department (PDD) to improve the work culture, the minister said it is imperative to take electricity to every household.
"In the past, decisions were taken by previous governments that smelled of corruption. Many projects were given to private parties and they need to be asked for it," he said.
Referring to the MoU signed in his presence, Singh said Jammu and Kashmir will become an energy-surplus region after the completion of the projects.
"When you start selling 3,000 to 4,000 MW of power to other states, your income will increase by Rs 8,000 crore, which will pave the way for the construction of roads, hospitals and schools," he said.
Singh said the NHPC will employ local youngsters in the projects and also provide training to them.
"It is imperative that there should be a robust billing system and metre system in place," he added.
When the Narendra Modi-led government took over in 2014, the rural areas in the country used to get electricity for 18 hours and a half, which has now improved to 20 hours per day, while the urban areas are getting it for 22-23 hours and 80 per cent of the towns are getting round-the-clock power supply.
"This type of development is possible here as well, but you have to change. We will ensure 24-hour power supply to consumers in Jammu and Kashmir and till this is achieved, I will feel that my work is incomplete. This is our responsibility and we will do it," he said.
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