In January this year, the Jammu and Kashmir government opened up the water resources of the erstwhile Himalayan state and signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) to make J&K power surplus and to attract the investment of Rs 35,000 crore into the newly carved out Union Territory.
The MoUs were signed for implementation of much awaited mega hydro power projects, including 850 MW Ratle HEP and 930 MW Kirthai-II HEP besides execution of long pending Sawalkot HEP (1856 MW), Uri-I (Stage-II) (240 MW) and Dulhasti (Stage-II) (258 MW).
Besides signing the MOUs nineteen important projects of Jammu and Kashmir Power Department aimed at greater generation, efficient transmission and better distribution of power supply in J&K were also inaugurated. Since then there has been no looking back and efforts are on to make J&K self reliant vis-a-vis power generation.
The Jammu and Kashmir has numerous hydro resources and is capable of generating 14,867 MW power but during the past 70-years the erstwhile State was only able to generate 3,504 MW electricity. But after the MOUs were signed, the administration claimed that the power generation in the Union Territory would double up in the next three to four years.
Union Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy, R.K. Singh who visited Jammu and Kashmir recently assured the people that the Government of India is committed to provide all possible support to J&K across generation, transmission and distribution sectors in order to make J&K power surplus, remove all supply constraints and provide 24×7 quality power to all citizens of J&K.
During his visit to the UT, Singh along with J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, inaugurated six transmission and distribution projects worth Rs 118 crore.
The projects that were dedicated to people included 100 MVA,132/33 KV GSS Nowbugh Chadura with 18 Kms D/C 132 kV Transmission Line; Distribution Strengthening works in Circle Bijbehara, Sumbal, Kupwara and Shopian towns; 33/11kV 10MVA Sub Stations at Industrial Estate Khonmoh, Super Speciality SMHS Srinagar completed under the various UT and Central schemes.
According to the officials in the recent past Jammu and Kashmir has attained remarkable progress in the power sector. It has enhanced its transformation capacity by 150 per cent and revenue generation has gone up by over 23 per cent.
Prior to August 5, 2019 — when the Centre announced its decision to abrogate J&K’s special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories — politicians in the erstwhile state left no opportunity to play politics over hydel power resources of the Himalayan region.
In August 2014, the then Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, in a meeting with the Union Power Ministry had demanded that NHPC should return the power projects to the state.
He had claimed that the Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan was “a cause of enormous losses to Jammu and Kashmir”.
“While both India and Pakistan benefited from the treaty, J&K was put to a disadvantageous position,” Omar Abdullah had stated.
He had termed the treaty as “a hurdle for the launch of a huge water supply project for Greater Jammu to utilise Chenab water to meet the requirements of the people for next 25 years.
Three power projects that the Jammu and Kashmir government wanted the NHPC to return were 690-MW Salal, 480-MW Uri and 390-MW Dulhasti.
Interestingly, Omar had raised the issue just a few months before the assembly elections were to be held in Jammu and Kashmir. He had upped the ante as his bete-noire Peoples Democratic Party at that point of time had promised people that if it wins the polls it would get all the power projects under NHPC in J&K back.
After the National Conference and PDP turned the return of power projects from NHPC into an election plank, the business chambers of both Jammu and Kashmir and civil society members too joined the chorus and sought return of all power projects run by NHPC in J&K.
They claimed that there was no justification in its reluctance to handover them to the J&K Government.
In March 2015, the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) ruled out the return of power projects to J&K. The then Director, Finance NHPC, ABL Srivastava said the Central Government and Union Power Ministry have made it clear in unambiguous words that there is no question of returning these projects to the J&K Government.
J&K’s power sector revamped
After Jammu and Kashmir’s complete merger with the Union of India on August 5, 2019, politics that was played over the hydel resources of Jammu and Kashmir has taken a back seat. No one wants these power projects back now as the Union Territory has witnessed a complete change in the power scenario during the past two years. The urban areas are getting electricity 24×7 and the situation in the rural areas has also improved.
Recently, the Administrative Council headed by J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha authorised the Jammu Power Distribution Corporation Limited (JPDCL) and Kashmir Distribution Corporation Limited (KPDCL) to implement smart metering project in J&K.
These corporations aim to install 6 lakh smart/prepaid meters across J&K through a wholly owned subsidiary of Rural Electrification Corporation under the Ministry of Power, Government of India.
Currently, 2 lakh smart meters are being installed in Jammu and Srinagar under the Prime Minister’s Development Programme(PMDP).
The new distribution system will improve the quality and reliability of power supply to consumers. The Smart meters will bring about transparency in metering, billing and collection which will eventually reduce power losses and ensure quality and reliable power supply to consumers.
The power distribution sector of J&K has a total consumer base of nearly 21 lakhs, out of which metered consumers are only about 50 per cent.
A strong power sector in J&K means ease of living, industrialisation and employment generation. The government is putting in all the efforts to strengthen J&K’s power infrastructure which has remained dilapidated for the last several decades.
Past practices of delays have become a history and power projects are being executed at an accelerated pace. During the past two years, upgradation of power infrastructure, and languishing projects have been completed in record times.
The J&K Lieutenant Governor recently stated: “We have presented an investment plan of Rs 12,000 crore by 2025 in transmission and distribution sectors in order to strengthen infrastructure as well prepare a future-ready power infrastructure. It would not just provide power on demand to all citizens but would also cater to the industrial demand in line with the proposed investment of Rs 28,400 crore under J&K’s new Industrial Policy.”
The revamping of the power sector in Jammu and Kashmir has brought the Union Territory at par with the other states across the country. The bold steps taken by the Central and UT Governments have driven home a point that there is a huge difference between offering lip service and transforming words into action.
In January this year, Kashmir witnessed a heavy snowfall but the Power Department ensured that people do not face cuts and kept the Valley illuminated in the dark winter nights. The change surprised the people as in the past snowfall meant no electricity for many days.
People of J&K have realized that the ground situation is changing and it is changing for the good.