SRINAGAR, Aug 10:Over 1,000 potable power houses set up by the Army to provide electricity to remote villages, especially those near the Line of Control, are lying defunct.
These power houses were sanctioned seven years ago and were set up at an estimated cost of Rs 20 crore.
The power houses, each with a capacity of 3 to 5 kVA, were touted to be the biggest Sadbhavana initiative of the Army in the state.
While the Army claims that these mini hydel projects (MHPs) had been handed over to the local authorities, the latter say most of these has been non-functional right from the start.
“Faulty material and wrong techniques were adopted by the Army while setting up these power houses. Had it been done by the civil department, many heads would have rolled by now. No one is ready to take on the Army for causing losses to the exchequer,” said a senior officer in the J&K Government.
He added that the Army “lacked” the expertise and that the entire work was done in “haste”.
“The machinery and equipment were not subjected to third party checkup, which is necessary for such equipment. The state government was not kept in the loop during conception and implementation of these projects,” he added.
The Army tried to involve the civil administration only after difficulties surfaced post-completion.
In 2005, the Central government had sanctioned the setting up of 1,000 MHPs of 3 to 5 kVA under various categories by the Army.
Under the reconstruction plan for J&K announced by the Prime Minister, 435 MHPs were sanctioned to the Army by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India, 265 MHPs were sanctioned under the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) and 300 MHPs under
Each project was set up at a cost of around Rs 2 lakh.
Under the MNRE quota, 42 units were installed by 14 Corps in the Ladakh region, 203 by 15 Corps in Kashmir and 190 by 16 Corps in the Jammu region.
Under the BADP component, 8 MHPs were sanctioned in the Ladakh region, 197 in Kashmir and 60 in the Jammu region.
Under Operation Sadbhavana, the Army installed 50 power houses in Ladakh, 150 in Kashmir and 100 in Jammu regions.
Lt Gen Om Prakash, General Officer Commanding (GOC), 15 Corps, said the Army had constructed the MHPs under Operation Sadbhavana.
“All these units have been handed over to the state government for operational purposes,” he told The Tribune. J&K Minister of Science and Technology Aga Ruhullah said all these projects were lying defunct.
“After a survey conducted by the Integrated Rural Energy Planning (IREP), these projects have been found defunct,” Ruhullah said.
“The Union government had asked the state government to get these units renovated with the help of the Central ministry, but we did not agree as none can be renovated.”
In fact, the Power Development Department (PDD) was assigned the task to inspect the units after these were set up.
In its report to the government, the PDD said: “The quality of civil, electrical and mechanical works of the power houses set up by the Army was not up to the mark and that discrepancies exist in all installations inspected
in various areas of Kashmir and Jammu.”
All units non-functional
The authorities had also reported that the power units were not functional and could not be handed over to the village-level committees.
A joint committee of representatives of the Army and the district administration was set up to undertake a physical verification of these units.
In 2009, the J&K government, through the science and technology department, was asked to conduct an inspection of these units.
Besides finding most of the units non-functional, the team realised that some existed only on paper.
Lt Col Rajesh Kalia, spokesperson for the Northern Command, said these power projects were handed over to the civil authorities after their completion.
“The Indian Army executes small-scale projects in the field of education and infrastructure development under Operation Sadbhavana.
While the Army plans and constructs these projects, these are handed over on completion to the civil administration in working condition under the policy,” Kalia asserted.
(The author is working with Tribune News Service)