Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Heart of the Problem

Shoaib suggests that electric power shortage in the valley is directly connected with power theft. He is not speculating as he knows it first hand. The analysis that the Greater Kashmir would not publish in its entirety is provided below

(Mr. Shoaib Mushatq Shah, 28, was born in Srinagar and did his schooling from the Burn Hall School, Srinagar, passed 10th class in 1996 and then completed 2 additional (10+2) years from the Tyndale Biscoe School , Srinagar. He attended the Model institute of Engineering and Technology (MIET) in Jammu in the department of Electrical engineering. He graduated in 2004 and did his internship for 1 year at the Nuclear Research Laboratory, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (NRL-BARC), Srinagar. He later joined the Reliance Energy's BSES Rajdhani power Limited, working in the Enforcement Division to check power thefts. He is currently a Junior Engineer at the Grid Station, Bemina. Mr. Shah is socially active in alerting common citizens about the power theft menace and its impact on the society. His leisure time activities involve writing, reading and surfing the net.)


Electricity, as we know is a little bit like the air we breathe in. We don’t really worry for it prudent use unless it is missing. Our kleptomaniac approach towards electricity has become a menace in our society and I personally think that we all, including the people from the department are responsible for this imbroglio, in one way or the other. The prosperity and the growth of a country or a state depends a hell lot on its energy and the power sectors. Without enough power and energy available, no industry can survive and ultimately it will perish, and so will be the economy of that country or the state.

Power, as we all know is transmitted via overhead lines while distribution is being done through overhead lines and in certain areas through underground cables. The overhead lines being bare conductors are always susceptible to theft. As we might have noticed, in almost all of the residential areas and in many cases in non-residential areas too, power theft is almost a way of life. Due to the grace of the meter readers and inspectors, no effort is made to hide it and the method is so simple in itself: just locate a nearest overhead line ,that usually are available at ease in the downtown congested areas, sling a metal hook over it, turn a wire from the hook to the home. The result: an illegal supply of electricity that is not to be paid for and that lasts until the officials from the department stage one of this periodic raids. And when that happens, we simply wait for a few hours until the officials have gone before reconnecting.

Another alternative for carrying the power theft that is dogging the energy sector is meter tampering. Many consumers tamper with their service connections or meters to avoid paying for their fare share. These cases are on an increase in the Kashmir valley. Although the department has not yet resorted to the checking of the meter tampering but a lot of energy is being stolen by this mean method.

How often does this thought cross and strike our mind to go for one of the many illegal means of drawing free energy that would best suit us and to our needs? As soon as the watches click around 6 o’clock in the evening , we leave aside the job at hand and start connecting the hooks again that remain active till 8 o’clock in the morning and incase a consumer is dare enough, he leaves it intact and unaltered thus enjoying the uninterrupted supply of free energy to the fullest. During this period when we are relishing this free electricity, we don’t hesitate to connect our full load viz., our houses are fully lit throughout with high wattage bulbs, all geysers, heaters, room convectors are running to their full intensities. Experience and knowledge shows that on an average a normal middleclass metered consumer/household connects around 1kilowatt or say 1.5 Kilowatts of power load at a particular instant (usually in the peak hours of the morning and the evening) if he is not indulging in the meter theft. The demand of the same consumer reaches a zenith of around 5 kilowatts when he has resorted to the power theft i.e., when he has connected the hooks on the nearby electric wires running in his streets. This is a case of one household that is a part of and comprises our locality and we all are aware of what is happening in our respective areas.

The result is that the distribution transformers in our localities are hugely overloaded, since it has not been designed for such overloaded condition. The net result comes out in the form of the damage to the transformer or to one of its vital and costly parts. And when this happens, in spite of sharing the blame with the department, we just complain that the department uses substandard equipments and materials. Such cases of loss to the department, in the form of the damage to the transformer, can be seen everywhere around us and i think one can very well realize the losses suffered by the department.

It has come to the PDD people as a surprise when a new recently commissioned 150 MVA power transformer bank at one of the vital grid stations in the valley got overloaded in just a span of one year. And nobody can justify that the load has increased by that extent in the valley. There is only one reason that I think we can account it for and that is: more and more people are switching to power theft. People from every sphere of life, be it the aristocratic people or the plebian, the educated or the illiterates, the government employees or the businessmen, everybody have found power theft an alternative. This loss of power and ultimately the revenue is too great for any largest power utility company to absorb and that’s the primary reason, I guess, why the service and the utility is still being owned and run by the government.

Has anybody an idea of how much the people outside the J and K state are paying for the electricity they consume i.e what the tariff outside the state is? Take the below given case for example:

Units Rate per Unit (Approx.) Amount (Rs)
1 to 50 2.70 135
51 to 200 3.10 465
210 to 400 3.80 760

Thus for 400 units consumption a consumer (elsewhere from J and K) pays around Rs 1400 while here in the state we are handed over an electricity bill of around Rs 800 ( at an average rate of Rs 2 per unit). In New Delhi a consumer pays as much as Rs 6 for each unit of electricity he consumes. In spite of this much relaxation, we still go for power theft. If a consumer cannot afford to pay some good many bucks as electricity charges, we always have means to control our bills and thus save the money as well as the energy. But power theft is never an answer; rather we always have an excuse for it.

I wish to recall/suggest some useful tips to save the energy, as detailed below:
1) We should turn off our home/office equipments/appliances when not in use. Do we know that a computer that runs 24 hours a day, for instance, uses more power than an energy efficient refrigerator?
2) If we need to leave your computer on, then turn off the monitor. The monitor alone uses more than half the system’s energy.
3) Setting our computers, monitors and copiers to use sleep mode when not in use helps cut energy costs by approximately 40 %.
4) Battery chargers such as those used for laptops, cell phones and digital cameras draw power whenever they are plugged in and are very inefficient. Make it a habit to pull the plug out and save.
5) Screen Savers save computer screens, but not the energy. Start ups and shut downs do not use any extra energy, nor are they hard on our computer components. In fact, shutting computers down when we have finished using them actually reduces the wear and tear and also saves energy.
6) One of the best energy saving device is the light switch. Turn it off when not required.
7) Dirty tube lights and bulbs emit less light and can absorb 50% of the light; so we should dust our tube lights and lamps regularly.
8) Fluorescent tube lights and CFLs convert electricity to visible light up to 5 times more efficiently than ordinary bulbs and thus save about 70% of electricity for the same lighting levels. 9) 90% of the energy consumed by an ordinary bulb (incandescent lamp) is given off as heat rather than visibility. So it is the time to switch on to CFLs.
10) A 15 watt compact fluorescent bulb produces the same amount of light as a 60 watt incandescent bulb.
11) By reducing the temperature setting of a water heater from 60 degrees to 50 degrees C, we can save over 18 % of the energy used at the higher setting.
12) To help reduce heat loss, we should always insulate hot water pipes, especially where they run through unheated areas.
13) Try using an electric kettle to heat water. It’s more energy efficient than using an electric cook top element.
14) We should try to iron our clothes and linen all in one go. Avoid keeping a hot iron which is switched on in an upright position for long durations since more heat will be lost.
15) Avoid storing hot or warm food in to the refrigerator.
16) Use of white or light colors for interior walls, ceilings, curtains reflects more light within the building and therefore further reduces the cost of lighting.
17) The temperature regulator of the refrigerator should not be set at high if the quantity of the food inside is small. Also, we should stack food items inside to allow good air circulation.
18) By locating the doors and windows to admit more sunlight through them, we can avoid using electricity for lighting our home and office during the day.
19) Orientation of the house and surrounding landscape has a large effect on energy consumption. Planting trees on the south and west will reflect natural light through the windows resulting in less use of the heating appliances like room heaters etc in winters and would also provide ample of light.
20) Auto defrost refrigerators consumes more electricity. Larger the refrigerator, higher is the usage of electricity.

Conserving or saving energy is a natural cause. According to a recent official survey, energy theft in some countries is surprisingly high. It is not that only we people (i.e. Kashmiris or say the Indians…) are miles ahead than the people from the other parts of the globe in this menace of power theft. In china more than 3% of the nations power supply is lost to theft. Power theft in Mexico is 10-20 %, in South America it is 10-16 %, and believe it or not the figures for India are 20-50 %. As per an official estimate , as much as 42 % of the power supplied to India’s capital disappears through ”transmission loses”, meaning it is consumed without being paid for. In effect, it is stolen. The Delhi Vidut Board (DVB) study provides evidence that most of these so called T & D losses (transmission and distribution losses) are plain and simple theft. The state electricity boards (SEBs) like the Jammu and Kashmir Power development department (PDD) loses at crores of rupees due to electricity theft. It would be amazing to know that even if half of the theft could be checked and prevented by some extraordinary means like for example an improved tamper evident meter sealing system and some dedicated intelligence; most of the SEBs including the JKPDD would be in good profit.

As well said by Eleanor Roosevelt:

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”

So we have to believe that there is a need to stop stealing electricity, we have to believe that we can afford and survive if we spare a few hundred of rupees for paying for the electricity we consume, and then start working on it.

To start with let’s change our habit of stealing electricity. It is agreed that the meter readers and the inspectors play a big role and they are a part and parcel for all the misuse of the electricity that happens .It is the support and the help of these miscreants and in some cases the higher ups too, that the general public becomes successful in achieving the target of the power theft. The government has to take the initiative and then the department has to play a vital role at all steps in eradicating this menace. To start with they have to deal with these meter readers and the inspector community people very harshly. The department should conduct mass raids, with the support of the police and the judiciary, in areas where there is severe power theft. Many a cases of faulty meters have been encountered by the consumers. The department has to come forward to the rescue of these innocent consumers. The common people would be provided with quality and quantity power but once they leave the practice of the power theft. Then some efficient energy management supported by innovative energy conservation techniques and tamper proof meters should follow. This is the key to sustainable development and growth. Let’s change ourselves and leave no stone unturned to conserve energy and so to say conserve our future.

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