Kashmir is reeling under an intense power blackout with a daily curtailment of 10 to 15 hours, creating a crisis-like situation just when tourists started arriving for the spring season.
The blackout is despite the fact that the government increased the power tariffs by a staggering 65 to 78% in the past four years, increasing the state revenue by 37% for the financial year 2012-13, as per documents presented in state assembly last week.
Ironically, the state's power development department (PDD) has proposed another hike of 18% this year but has failed to procure enough power from the Northern grid for a scheduled and continuous power supply.
While the government including PDD is silent over the issue, a local daily quoted Northern Region Load Despatch Centre (monitoring and supervising the Northern Grid) general manager VV Sharma, saying that there was no problem on their part vis-à-vis power supply to the state.
“If they have more requirement, they can procure it but on our side everything is OK,” Sharma said. Officials in the PDD said there had been a drastic reduction in import of electricity from the grid due to "limited budgetary allocations to the sector".
For a 24-hour power supply, the state has a total power requirement of around 1,500 MW at peak hours with Kashmir requiring a share of 700 MW.
The state is able to provide only 1,000 MW out of which it buys 70% from the NHPC, which is producing around 1,560 MW in the state with many more projects having a capacity of around 700 MW under construction or almost complete. The frequent power failure after almost every hour for one to two hours has badly affected the industries, tourism, professionals and media. Even Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan Srinagar stations, too, face sudden power failure, affecting programmes, including news.
Experts state that the transmission and distribution loses account for 45 to 60% of the total power losses.
Minister of state for power and information Vikar Rasool informed the state assembly last week that for the upkeep and maintenance of power network, an amount of Rs. 3406.75 lakh was made available under the maintenance grants (other than salaries for manpower of PDD) for power development.
He said nearly 80,000 new electronic meters have been installed and over 23060 replaced ending December, 2012 by the PDD.
“Power revenue for nine months of the financial year ending December, 2012 has increased by 37.25% compared to the same period last year and increase of Rs. 27546.56 crore,” Rasool informed the legislators.
While there have been pending dues with domestic consumers, the government departments own a major chunk amounting to Rs. 500 crore to the PDD.
The anger has spilled over and people have been protesting on roads against the unscheduled power cuts.
“On one hand, the government has failed to improve the power scenario, but on the other, it has been subjecting consumers to an unjustified hike (in power tariff),” said Shakeel Qalander, a social activist and former president of Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir.
Kashmir has a power generation capacity of 20,000 MW, but is unable to meet its own demand owing to inefficient governments and bureaucracy.
The state has been demanding the Prime Minister to initiate the process of return of all projects set up by NHPC which have already paid back their capital with the residual price as calculated by the task force led by Dr C Rangarajan. The demand till now has not been heeded.