“A total of 22.5 Lakh smart meters will be installed in Jammu and Kashmir to make sure that consumers get 24×7 power supply, Principal Secretary, Power Development Department (PDD), H. Rajesh Prasad said on Thursday. Prasad said that smart meters are the need of the hour to bring down AT&C losses and to ensure 24×7 power supply to the consumers”, reads a news article. But the jarring fact remains that “Pesky Power Cuts Irk Consumers Ahead of Winter in Kashmir”, reads a headline appearing recently given the repeated complaints made by the people. People in Kashmir, have been time and again duped by the slogan of “24*7 electricity availability” and the slogan has been time and again used to install meters, smart meters, insulated cables, micro-transformers and whatnot. But every time the promise of round-the-clock electricity has been broken and broken badly. According to the recently circulated Schedule, Power Development Corporation Limited (KPDCL) said that “Metered Areas to Face 4.5 Hour Curtailment, Non-metered 8 Hours”. This statement starkly looks into the face of “24*7 electricity supply commitment” and the sufferings faced by people in the wake of the dipping climate are only aggravated by the near absence of electricity. People have taken to Social Media to vent their anger and frustration brought in by unscheduled power cuts in addition to the scheduled curtailment. People aren’t, to my understanding, against smart meters, except in cases of economic marginality, but what irks people in general, are these un-notified and sudden power cuts and blackouts they have to face now & then particularly at times when electricity is next to oxygen.
Power Deficit State
Of the total identified hydro-potential of 16475 MW, a small fraction amounting to a mere 3500 MW has been developed, of which the state-owned power plants generate around 1300 MW and the centrally owned PSUs like NHPC own a large chunk of around 2000 MW. This under-achievement & the state-centre imbalance in shares owes its existence to several topological, political and a host of other factors, the exploration of which is beyond the scope of this article. The lean water flow in the winter season diminishes the power output to the effect that the UT can Generate only 300 MW of electricity against the demand of over 1800 MW’s. To fill in the power deficit, the state either imports energy from other states or purchases apart from NHPC, the purchase which has put KPDCL under a heavy debt of 14164 Crore. The unpaid dues by consumers, electricity pilferage, and unscientific modes of energy consumption by people not only dilapidated the existing energy scenario but are pushing the department and the state to the point of no return. Thus in asking the department for an uninterrupted power supply, people must not abandon their duties and responsibilities. The state of power deficit has to be met bilaterally by the judicious use of electricity by the people and the infrastructure upgradation by the department. A failure at each end will keep the state energy-starved at all times and also put a heavy burden on state coffers.
Out of Stalemate
Let us start with something very basic – our pattern of energy consumption. Electrical Engineering teaches us that the worst usage of electricity in the domestic sphere is to use it for heating purposes. Recall where the vast chunks of electrical energy consumed in our homes – inefficient heaters, water boilers & other appliances that convert electricity into heat. This consumption pattern not only heavily adds to our bills, but puts an unnecessary and inflexible burden on the generation and transmission systems. Can we not replace these gadgets with their economical substitutes like gas-based stoves, induction cookers & other appliances which are efficient & significantly lessen the burden on electrical systems? We have some of the indigenous methods whereby we have been using wood & coal to heat water & rooms respectively. We are hereby advocating the revival of these options not because of any cultural or aesthetic values, but for the sole reason that these alternatives are more economical than their electrical counterparts. But do we intend to relinquish the department of its commitments & responsibilities and let the people suffer in these harsh winter days? That we can never think of. Having pinned the mistakes and lapses on people’s side, the department needs to be reminded that students rely on education to carry on with their studies. There are patients, who depend on instruments & supporting devices that are purely electricity-driven – and these cases usually skyrocket during winter. There are businesses and economies which fall flat in the absence of electricity. How can authorities ignore these facets and switch off the electricity at their whim, jeopardising the lives and economies of people? On this end, a wholesome infrastructural upgrade is needed, as has been said by the experts time and again. A generation has to be up-scaled & this can’t be compromised & the department has to wake up to the immediacy of the same. Transmission and distribution losses, amounting to gargantuan figures, have to be brought down, in the absence of which a large portion of the generated power will go to waste. The writer does understand that these are capital-intensive activities requiring a huge capital amount and the state may not be able to carry out the task on its own. It may therefore have to rely on central aid, but in the process, it must not put itself mortgage or agree to terms as have been the fate of previous power agreements between the state & the centre, which we are lamenting and paying for to this day.
The perception which emerges is that despite all the odds faced by the department and despite the aforementioned facts in favour of the department, JKPDCL is not doing enough to ensure a smooth electric supply to its consumers and unscheduled power cuts are the worst forms of nuisance and trouble faced by consumers. The erratic power cuts after issuing a prior schedule is not only irrational but unjustified and unwarranted. The state machinery and the Department in particular needs to wake up to the miseries faced by people and ensure strict adherence to the issued schedule and aspire for a state of affairs where round the clock electric supply is a living reality and not just a hollow statement on paper.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- The author is a Srinagar based columnist
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.