Powerless Jammu And Kashmir’s Winter Of Discontent

Powerless Jammu And Kashmir’s Winter Of Discontent

11 January 2012
Times of India
Randeep Singh Nandal

Srinagar: It has been a dark New Year in Kashmir. People were transported back in time - almost a 100 years. Thousands of people dispensed with a bath; lakhs of children experienced life without TV and computers. The conversation was often about where to get kerosene to run generators. Many were fishing around in trunks for old pherans and buying kangris in the time of central heating. The reasons for this journey back in time was that the main power lines bringing power to the Valley across Banihal had snapped due to heavy snowfall. 'From the usual 800MW, I have some 70MW to dispense. The situation is difficult,' CM Omar Abdullah had said. As the protests against lack of electricity built up across the state, many in the government privately blamed opposition groups for fanning the resentment. Why would a group of protesters head for a power generation plant instead of their local administration or electricity department? Because, for the past one year, it's the ruling National Conference that has been raising the issue of how the NHPC is 'looting' Kashmir's natural resources - by implication, the Centre. Despite the Centre and NHPC repeatedly denying any move to transfer back these power projects to the state, not a week passed in 2010 when Omar or his ministers didn't announce either the imminent 'buy back' of these projects or lament the 'loot of Kashmir's water'. Lapped up by the separatists, this is now the accepted truth for almost all Kashmiris. . So the six-hour power cut is just another example of New Delhi's exploitative policies. The reality, however, is more complex. The electricity board has one of the worst transmission and distribution loss ratios . Officials gave statistics to show how theft and unpaid bills were ruining their efforts to modernise infrastructure or buy more electricity from the northern grid, only to be rubbished by the government . 'The people who pay bills aren't the only ones who vote,' said a cabinet minister.