SRINAGAR, June 22: Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah’s diktat “start paying market price” for electricity consumption has drawn flak from Srinagar’s civil society and the common man.
Describing the statement as “dictatorial”, Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies member Shakeel Qalander said, “The statement is unfortunate. He should not have threatened people and blamed them for all ills. Even the misgovernance in the Power Development Department (PDD) has been blamed on consumers.”
Facing angry tweets on the social networking site Twitter on Thursday for unscheduled power cuts in the entire state in simmering summer, Omar, who has around 1.4 lakh followers, wrote: “Power in Jammu and Kashmir is the second cheapest in the country after Sikkim. How about all of you, complaining about load-shedding, start paying market price.”
Jammu and Kashmir is facing load shedding despite temperature soaring to 43.5 degree Celsius in Jammu area. Omar argues power cuts have become inevitable.
“I have been very transparent about the power situation in the state. The 70% loss and theft situation is unsustainable, so lead shedding happens,” said the chief minister.
The civil society has sharply reacted to the comments. “When the PDD itself is conniving in power theft, how can you expect them to stop it? Even one senior engineer with the PDD was caught!” wrote known columnist Ashraf Ahmad on the CM’s wall.
The chief minister, who holds the power portfolio, faces 62% losses in the transmission and distribution. Against requirement of around 750 MWs, the state is failing short of around 150 MWs.
“We don’t fiddle with our meters but I’m pretty sure people do it. Make them foolproof, charge more, take power projects back,” wrote Shehla Rashid, a social media activist, to the chief minister.
Qalander, whose civil society initiative seeks return of NHPC power projects to the state, sees potential in the CM’s tweets to enrage the common man.
“The CM talks about small thefts what about the heist perpetrated by the NHPC in the state? Given utilization of our water sources, people should get free power,” said Qalander adding, “J-K has potential to generate 20,000 MWs of power and it’s a failure on the part of the government to harness it.”
Taking exception to the CM’s rebuke to consumers, Qalader said, “People brave harsh winters and suffer to have the luxury of water in summers. It’s god’s gift to people and is being exploited by someone else”.
The NHPC runs four major power projects Salal (690 MW), Uri (480 MW), Dulhasti (390 MW), Sewa-II (120 MW). The state only gets 12% as royalty from the projects and the rest of power deficit is purchased from the open market in northern grid by the government.
The valley faces at least eight hour power cut every day.
(The author is Srinagar based correspondent, Hindustan Times)