Sunday, July 15, 2012

Kashmir on its own-Power!

Power has been the most talked about subject in Kashmir in recent times. It is for the first time that we are facing curtailment even in summer and that too with additional unscheduled cuts! The joke of the day is the power department asking the households fitted with energy meters to voluntarily declare their load. Do they doubt their own digital energy meters? How does it matter if people pay honestly without indulging in any underhand means with the connivance of the local lineman, for the energy they use? It is more an exercise to count electric gadgets than to survey the load. A fa├žade to cover their own failings! The worst tragedy is that one of the most potential hydro-electric power generation areas is suffering from a perennial power famine! This is a misfortune which has been thrust upon Kashmir by its neighbours with the connivance of its installed rulers. Had Kashmir been on its own, it would have been an equal partner in the Indus Water Treaty which has deprived Kashmiris from the use of their own resources. Firstly, the treaty depriving Kashmiris of the use of the waters flowing through their land is not only totally unjust but even illegal as regards the rights of the local population. How could two countries enter into a treaty about the resources of a territory globally accepted to be disputed without making any provision for the local population or keeping a clause about the ultimate fate of the territory? Similarly, how could an international organisation like the World Bank broker such unjust and illegal treaty in regard to a disputed territory without keeping any provision for safeguarding the interests of the people inhabiting it?Tom Paine in “Rights of Man” says that there never was, there never can, and there never will exist a generation of men which can bind posterity till the end of time. Each generation is free to decide how it lives and follow what it thinks to be the best course for itself! Had Kashmir not been unjustly burdened by IWT, we could be one of the top power producers in this part of the world. Experts have estimated the hydro-electric power generation potential of Kashmir at 20,000 megawatts. Both India and Pakistan have taken a virtual pound of flesh from Kashmiris by setting up power projects which give just a pittance to them compared to the huge profits the operators themselves have made. On this side we have something like the infamous East India Company called NHPC. This company starting with a capital of 200 crores is now worth over couple of hundred thousand crores and the major portion of the profit has come from its Kashmir projects! Kashmir on its own could have set up cascade projects like the famous California valley. Had we not been prevented from managing our water resources, we could have even set up run of the river schemes with sufficient storage to take care of lean winter. We could have also set up huge storage projects with outside investments. These would not only pay for themselves but would give us sizeable revenues. If we had the choice of generating this massive potential on our own, we could be earning revenue of more than a hundred thousand crore rupees annually. Above all else, Kashmir would not have been facing a perennial power famine! Apart from inability to generate power for our own use, we are burdened by an archaic system of distribution. The connections from an electric pole to various domestic consumers in down town area are mind boggling. Only a lineman of the department knows whose connection is where? It was this mind boggling jumble which had forced a communist engineer from the erstwhile Soviet Block to remark that he had started believing in God! He could not believe that with such jumbled up and naked connections no one gets electrocuted! The entire archaic system of distribution is maintained by thousands of daily wagers. Once they go on strike demanding their regularisation, the system starts crumbling. One can imagine the fragility of the system by the fact that Kashmir must be the only place in the world where power is switched off by the authorities as soon as there is high wind or a thunder storm! Had Kashmir been on its own, it could have had the state of the art distribution system with underground cabling. There were many Arab Sheikhdoms like Dubai which sometime back had almost stone age set ups. However, with their petro dollars they bought the best of the best available in the world because they were on their own! All these places present a display of dazzling lights during night. Sometimes places are so well lit that one cannot differentiate between night and day! Why can’t we too have similar set ups? Instead of putting patches on the archaic distribution system, one could modernise it sector by sector. For a resourceful global company undertaking such tasks abroad, it should not be difficult to totally revolutionise the distribution system provided they are given a turnkey job without any political interference. One dreams about spick and span state of the art power generation projects, transmission lines, grid stations, distribution system including receiving stations, feeders, transformers, underground cables, street lights and so on. Can such a system ever exist in Kashmir? Yes, of course when Kashmir is on its own and the people too have changed their attitude of owning these assets rather than considering these to be expendable government property! Before desiring anything beautiful and special, one has to deserve it too! Let us hope when Kashmir is someday on its own and we have honest and dedicated people, the power system will be a state of the art fail proof enterprise. A truly dream wish, which is not difficult to achieve, given the political will! Comments at: ashrafmjk@gmail.com

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