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.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Electricity Woes in J&K - The Story Behind the Story

Quick - if you want to know the real truth, the two related news items below should do the trick

JK Gets CERC Stick on Power Mess - State Asked To Pay Rs 637 Cr Arrears To Northern Grid Within 3 Weeks

Muddasir Ali (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: Already battling a severe power crisis, Jammu and Kashmir faces a drastic cut in energy allocation from the Northern Grid (NG) in case the State Government fails to remit, within three weeks, Rs 637 crore towards the cost of electricity overdrawn since 2002.

In a petition filed by various states affected by overdraw of power by JK, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) has directed the State Government to clear the remittance within three weeks or face drastic reduction in allocated quota of electricity under Unscheduled Interchange (UI) pool.

The Rs 637 crore arrears comprise Rs 295 crore principal amount and Rs 342 crore interest accumulated over the years. In its order (139/12 (suo-moto) dated July 9, 2012) CERC has also imposed penalty of Rs one lakh on J&K government for each case of non- compliance of the Commission orders. The CERC has pointed out eight such instances where JK government has violated its orders.

CERC is a quasi-judicial body having authority to regulate power sector and redress energy disputes between states.

A senior official in the State Power Development Corporation (SPDC) said the state could have avoided overdrawing of power had it properly managed its demand and stuck to the schedule.

“The situation speaks volumes about the gross mismanagement in the power sector. Given the financial position of JK, people should ready themselves to face more unscheduled cuts as it remains to be seen whether state government would comply with the Commission orders on time,” the official said.

The CERC order said it was noticed from report of Northern Regional Load Dispatch Center (NRLDC) that Rs 330 crore including surcharge was outstanding against state Power Development Department (PDD) towards UI payments as on November 30, 2011. On March 19, 2012 the Commission had observed that the state did not comply with its earlier directions on the matter asking PDD, its Secretary and Chief Secretary to show cause as to why action should not be initiated against them for non-compliance under CERC provisions for UI charges and related matters.

However, the state government had submitted that it was in the process of finalizing a payment plan for outstanding UI dues.

The state government had requested the CERC for a lenient view and extension in time for payment of outstanding UI in equated monthly installments by March 31, 2013.

“After the issue of the notice the respondents –PDD- has not made any payment even though the outstanding UI dues against PDD are increasing,” the CERC order reads. “We are constrained to note that respondents are not paying attention to payment of outstanding UI charges.”

The order observes it is clear that any constituent utility drawing power from the NG over and above its schedule is getting the energy at the cost of other constituents (states). “Consequently, it (JK) is under obligation to make prompt payments for consuming the power which legitimately belongs to other constituents. (But) by not making prompt payments respondents have not only deprived other constituents of their legitimate UI dues but created impediments in the operation of the commercial mechanism. We expect the respondent to liquidate the UI dues by due date as per the regulation,” the CERC orders reads.

A senior official in SPDC said state gets fixed power allocation from the Northern Grid as per the projected requirements.

The official said though the daily power schedule (requirement) changes and same is communicated to the NG, the state gets the allocation as per the agreement.

However, during peak hours when demand for power increases Jammu and Kashmir overdraws the energy. Every unit of power overdrawn is charged many times more than normal rate. The cost depends on the frequency on which the power is overdrawn and low the frequency, the higher is the cost per unit.

“The problem with JK is that it does not stick to the schedule, resulting in overdrawn of power. Ever unit of power overdrawn is charged around rupees five to six,” said the PDC official. He said JK and Uttar Pradesh are the only two states which continue to violate the schedule while other of the states has stopped the practice.

The state’s peak power demand is over 2200 MW against which the local production is almost 760 MW. The gap in the energy demand is met through import of power from the Northern Grid.

There has been increase in the unscheduled power cut across the state in recent time. Due to increase in this phenomenon people are facing tough time in heat conditions.

Reacting to the development the Kashmir Center for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS) said the eminent possibility of reduction in power allocation from Northern Grid reflects “gross mismanagement” in the PDD with regard to energy procurement. In a statement the KCSDS said that the PDD has miserably failed to draw its power procurement plan and take power procurement seriously over the years.

“The state shall have to face huge losses besides more curtailments in energy supply to the consumers in case of any such reduction ordered by the Commission,” KCSDS said.

It said the PDD has “miserably failed” to maintain discipline in the power drawings and the excess power required at any point of time could have been procured through long term or short term trading with power trading companies.

PDD Replaces 30000 Faulty Meters - Exchequer Loses Rs 4.5 Crore Due To Official Laxity

Umer Maqbool (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: In a glaring instance of laxity in the Power Development Department (PDD), the state exchequer has suffered losses worth millions of rupees on account of replacement of around 30,000 ‘defective’ electric meters in the Valley.

Highly placed sources told Greater Kashmir that the faulty electric meters installed by PDD in different areas of the Valley, particularly in Srinagar had to be replaced due to their abnormal functioning during winters.

“Around 30,000 defective electric meters have been replaced as these showed lower reading during winters due to sharp decrease in temperature,” they said, adding that it has caused loss of nearly Rs 4.5 crore to the state exchequer as all these faulty meters had to be dumped.

“The installation of each meter costs us around Rs 1500 and replacement of around 30000 meters amounts to around Rs 4.5 crore,” they added.

According to the sources, PDD had procured one lakh defective meters in 2001 at exorbitant rates and 50000 of the said lot were to be installed each in Srinagar and Jammu.

“They were purchased at higher rates and their original market price was around Rs 700 each,” they added.

Pertinently, PDD has installed around three lakh meters in the Valley with several areas still without meters. Although the state government has kept several deadlines for metering entire Valley but it has failed to meet the same.

An official said, the faulty lot was purchased by PDD without requisite testing before procurement.

“In other states, different agencies test meters before procurement and installation, but it seems that no such exercise was conducted here by officials of PDD,” he said.

He added that the procurement deal needs thorough probe and investigation to find how the officials of PDD committed serious blunder of not testing the meters before their installation.

Not only squandering public money, replacement of meters also triggered widespread resentment among public in the Valley. People in several areas staged protests and resisted the attempts to install new meters as they feared that they will show higher reading.

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