Monday, June 25, 2012

Browbeating to cover helplessness?

As given in Wikipedia, the following poem is found in the school book "Maxwell's Elementary Grammar", copyright 1904. "Oho!' said the pot to the kettle; "You are dirty and ugly and black! Sure no one would think you were metal, Except when you're given a crack." "Not so! not so! kettle said to the pot; "'Tis your own dirty image you see; For I am so clean -without blemish or blot- That your blackness is mirrored in me" The Chief Minister’s missive to the people to pay the market price for the electric power supplied by his government or face load shedding reflects helplessness in tackling the transmission losses of almost 70% as claimed by him. If the major portion of power loss is caused by pilferage, it compounds the problem as no pilferage is possible without active connivance of the departmental officials at various levels. One cannot put the onus of the failure of authorities in tackling power theft on all the people. The gravity of the transmission losses by poor conduction or theft as claimed by the Chief Minister has supposedly reached such proportions that the revenue earned is not even one fourth of the expenditure on importing the same from the northern grid. It is just one aspect of the mother of all corrupt and incompetent governments seen by Kashmiris in last 65 years! Before browbeating the people, one has to introspect why we are in a power mess? Who has sold all the power resources of Kashmir lock, stock, and barrel to NHPC for pea nuts? The predecessors of the present rulers. If we go by expert findings, NHPC has built itself as a flourishing company on the revenue generated from its power projects in Kashmir. No doubt the present rulers have inherited this legacy of perennial power shortage but it does not behove them to put all the blame on the people. Kashmir’s income from power generation could be over a hundred thousand crores per year had we not mortgaged our resources first under the Indus Water Treaty and subsequently to NHPC. We could be the most flourishing state even after supplying absolutely free power to our own people. No one else but an important minister in the present government claims NHPC to be liars! They are said to have virtually looted the state of its rightful revenue. If so, then what right have the rulers to accuse the people of power theft? Had the state been receiving power from the northern grid at the generation cost, we could almost supply free power to our people. Now, coming to transmission and distribution losses, all are not due to power theft. We have the most archaic and fragile power distribution system. It is the only place in the world where power is shut down during high winds or a thunder storm, rain or even a light snowfall! The conductors used are of low quality, the poles carrying these apart from being fragile, are very shabbily embedded. Normally these should be in concrete blocks about few feet below the surface. In reality, these are just a foot below and often get uprooted. Worn out transformers, dangerously dangling service lines and a host of other parts involved in carrying and distribution of power is a typically pathetic scene of our distribution system. The entire system is maintained by over 10,000 daily wagers interestingly called the “PDL” (permanent daily wage labour!). Some of these have been there for over 18 years! Whenever these people go on a strike to plead for permanent absorption, the system virtually collapses. Thus, more than generation and gridding, the department has to pay attention to the distribution system. The most unfortunate part is the tendency of the government to do everything on its own. Be it the setting up and operation of Golf Courses, Cable Cars, Huts and so on in Tourism sector or generation, transmission, and distribution of power. Most of these things could be out sourced to private players with strict regulation and monitoring. If the production and transmission are looked after by the government because of the high cost involved in these and the reluctance of the private players to come in because of the present scenario of uncertainty, at least the distribution system could be privatized. However, to do that first the system itself has to be modernized and cleansed through some reputed agencies on a turnkey basis within a specified period of time. This may be essential before any private players are willing to take it over. This should not be a difficult proposition if the rulers have the political will and are honest in their endeavour to help the people rather than browbeat them. Omar Abdullah may be a well-meaning person fired to achieve something positive for his people but unfortunately he is pulled down by a thoroughly corrupt system and incompetent advisors. The worst thing is the coalition of the most corrupt which he is supposed to be heading! It is time he took some drastic but positive decisions of his own which he has the absolute power to do under the constitution as the entire residuary powers vest in him alone. If he considers himself to be the popularly elected Chief Minister, then he should be dictating to Delhi and not taking their diktats be it AFSPA revocation or dealings with NHPC or so. One is reminded here of GM Sadiq whose legislators rushed to Delhi to complain to Indira Gandhi about his tough decisions. He phoned her and told her to find a new Chief Minister if she went by the false complaints of the legislators. She had no alternative but to bundle them back after thoroughly abusing them! One wishes Omar takes similar courageous steps! Then he won’t have to browbeat the people by calling the kettle black! (Comments at

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