Introduction to KashmirForum.org 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.
www.kashmirforum.org

Monday, December 27, 2010

Power Mess or Another Victimhood Syndrome?

Ashraf presents a local perspective on power shortage in Kashmir. If you think that is interesting, wait until you hear the former J&K Power Commissioner (2 opposing views)


(Mr. Mohammad Ashraf, 67, was born and raised in Srinagar. He attended the S.P. High School and the S.P College before joining the Regional Engineering College at Naseem Bagh in Civil Engineering. However, he changed his career to adventure sports like mountaineering and skiing, completing his training at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling and Gulmarg. He also completed a diploma in French language from the Alliance Fran├žaise in New Delhi. He joined the J&K Tourism Department in 1973, rose to become its Director-General in 1996, and retired in 2003 after 30 years of service. He has been associated with the Adventure Sports at the national level and was recently re-elected as the Vice-President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, the apex body of adventure sports in India, for two years. To commend his efforts in introducing rescue measures in Kashmir Mountains, he was awarded “Merite-Alpin” by Swiss in a special function in Les Diablerets in 1993. He continues to be a member of the Governing Council of IMF and is also the President of Jammu & Kashmir Mountaineering & Hiking Club.)


POINT: Kashmir’s Power Mess!

For last few decades, power woes are very much a part of the Kashmiri life in winter. It is not only our misfortune but is also a disgrace for the ruling elite which have been in political power all these years. There is hardly any one who has not heard politicians of all hues and shades claim from the pulpits the hydro-power generation capacity of our rivers. The estimates vary from 20,000 to 25,000 megawatts.

Unfortunately, all these rivers have been mortgaged to Pakistan by the Indian government. Kashmir’s so called political leaders have either signed on the dotted line or in some cases have not been taken on board at all! Well, the loss of our rights on these rivers through Indus Water Treaty is not the only basis for the mess even though it is one of the major factors. The entire process of power development in the state has been lopsided from the very start. Initially, before 1947 we had only the Mohura Power House which used to supply power. It continued for quite some time. Those days one was not used to cooking or heating with the help of electric gadgets. A light bulb was the most precious possession. After 1947, the demand for power increased and the state went in for newer projects. We got P S Gill as our power commissioner who worked out a detailed plan for development of various projects. Two projects, one at Ganderbal and the other near Baramulla, the Lower Jhelum came up. Gill was totally attuned to run of the river projects and did not consider any storage based project. We also got bogged down by the Indus Water Treaty which had tied our hands behind the back. The result was a perennial race between the demand and supply. We have still not been able to bridge the gap between demand and supply especially during winter. This is because the freezing temperatures decrease the flow of water in our rivers and the power houses operate at a very low generation capacity. Sometimes the projects generating over 100 megawatts in summer get reduced to less than 10 in winter. Subsequently, some projects with storage had been built with the approval of Pakistani side. The obtaining of the approval was a tedious job. The case went to arbitrators for adjudication. These storage projects include Salal and Baghliar. NHPC (National Hydroelectric Power Corporation) entered the picture. Baghliar is the only storage project in the state side. The other projects of NHPC are the Uri and Dulhasti. The problem with these projects is that these add to the woes by virtually robbing the state of whatever resource was left after Indus Water Treaty. The state gets only 12% royalty from these projects. Rest of the power generated within the state itself has to be bought by the state at exorbitant rates for the use of the state subjects! The main plea given for this unfair treatment is that the money for these projects has been invested by the Central Government. Here, it may be mentioned that the very same Central Government is exercising double standards. The state government tried to put up some mega projects but the Central Government refused to give counter guarantee for foreign investors! The hydroelectric power itself could be the main source of income for the state provided we are allowed to generate global investments and then sell the generated power to rest of the country. Recently, the state government has set up another corporation for tapping the potential of Chenab valley. Again it will be a shared project between the centre and the state. The only consolation is that the share of the state has been increased. The projects will have a gestation period of five years or so. In any case, the present scenario is that we will continue to be caught in the race of demand and supply for next few years. It is so pathetic and tragic that in spite of such massive resources we are in a pitiable condition in regard to power situation in winter. What would have been life in Kashmir if we had the possibility of tapping all these resources and give abundant electric power to the inhabitants of this unfortunate and troubled valley? It would definitely have been much better. Smooth and clean with a wonderful environment. In fact, our main economic resource would have been the earnings from hydroelectric power. In the present situation it may appear as a utopian dream but a dream which could be made possible some day?

Now coming back to the present crisis, it is not only the lack of generation within Kashmir or the import from outside which is the main culprit. Basically it is the system which is thoroughly corrupt. We want power but do not want pay for it. It is often given out that we have over 50% transmission or distribution losses. This is not true. These losses only amount to no more than 10% or so. 40% loss or even more is due to pilferage. Dishonesty at all levels. Corruption has seeped into our blood. One would not have expected any pilferage in the metered areas but unfortunately it may be as much as in non-metered areas if not more! Strangely, it is the linemen supposed to check pilferage who are showing consumers how to bypass the meters. They are alleged to charge 100 rupees per month from these pilfers. Some consumers have a separate service line which they hook onto the mains bypassing the meter after dark. The linemen know this and keep their mouths shut against a monthly “fee”. In the beginning there was appreciable checking and surveillance in the metered areas. The pilferage was greatly reduced and the metered areas had assured supply through the essential feeders. In fact, once a superintending engineer of the power department itself was caught in a night raid and fined. Not now. There is now a live and let live policy. The linemen guilty of small pilferage can’t be stopped by senior officers whose bigger pilferage is known to them! So there is the live and let live attitude which has tremendously increased the loss due to pilferage. There is only one solution to stop it.

Stringent punishment for both the pilfers and the facilitators. If the government can use PSA against timber smugglers, why not against the power thieves? They too are causing equal damage to the system. One wonders why the protagonists for “Azadi” are not thinking about “Azadi” from the artificially created power famine in the most resourceful area for the hydroelectric power generation. May be they prefer the abstract version which is easy to sell without anybody understanding or questioning its parameters! In any case, the “Power Scenario” in Kashmir is in a total mess without any proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. We are destined to contend with dark nights for a long time to come!


COUNTERPOINT: Come Out of Victimhood Syndrome


B R Singh (Former Power Commissioner, J&K)

This is in response to the article ‘Kashmir’s power mess’ by M Ashraf on December 26. I would like to point out that I have read many articles on power scenario in the last twenty years. I also met an activist recently in Delhi who intends to move to the court against the NHPC-PDC tie up. I regret that Kashmiris are unable to look at the problem rationally.

You will notice that the Dogras don’t complain much about the power issue although it is Jammu that has more potential for generating power than Kashmir, without the Indus waters Kashmir's potential would not have exceeded 1700 MW. That means if J&K had exploited all of what is available, there would be no shortage. In 1947, the total capacity was 7 MW in Kashmir and of Jammu it was 1/2 MW.

Today the state government have capacity of 200 MW in Kashmir and about 480MW in Jammu. In addition, the GoI owns 480MW in Kashmir and 850-900 MW in Jammu. Of this about 200 MW is J&K's share. Besides, the state of J&K has a share in central projects outside the state. I think it is now about 400 MW; I am not sure about the latest figure. So, against 7 MW in 1947, J&K has now the capacity of about 1400 MW however it comes down drastically in winters. 500 MW transmission capacity into the valley had been built already and the 440 KV line will double that.

The problem is that people don't want to pay for the power they consume. Hydel power costs an average of Rs 3.50 per unit of energy these days. The state is losing about Rs 2000 crores in supplying power. I have opposed handing over projects to the NHPC and even retrieved

Baglihar and Sawalkote from them, but the problem is deeper. Why are they handed over in the first place? Kashmiris need to ponder over this question rather than blaming others.

The IWT was signed with the consent of the J&K government. Do you know that when the Bhakra Beas system was planned as a consequence of the IWT, J&K was asked what share it wanted out of the 3000 MW planned and they asked for only 10 MW.

The narrative of being treated unfairly is true only if you accept that J&K collaborated in the unfair treatment. It was well within the government's ability to say that they should be compensated proportionately for the losses the state would undergo as a result of the treaty. Why has Sawalkote failed to take off? Why could Baglihar be constructed in record time despite all those allegations? What are the problems that prevent J&K from executing its own projects? Think over these issues instead of taking recourse to the unending narrative of victimhood.

The real problem is elsewhere. Also, what the IWT has taken away cannot be restored till Pakistan can be persuaded to renegotiate the treaty. There are hidden issues that some one like you should make the public aware of, if you put Kashmir first.

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