Civil Society Threatens Agitation

Civil Society Threatens Agitation

30 March 2012
Greater Kashmir
Muddasir Ali

Srinagar: A civil society group here on Friday warned that Government of India’s unwillingness to transfer three power projects “illegally and unconstitutionally occupied” by its subsidiary, National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), in Jammu and Kashmir could simmer into mass uprising. The group, Kashmir Center for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS), said Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh should state whether Government of India owns the statement made by Union Power Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, in New Delhi yesterday, expressing unwillingness to transfer Salal, Uri and Dulhasti hydropower projects to J&K. “The statement aimed at suppressing the genuine public demand (for transfer of power projects to JK) is highly deplorable and condemnable,” said Hameeda Nayeem, Chairperson KCSDS, at a press conference here. “Not only does it expose the so called Confidence Building Measures policy of the Center but also their authoritarian mentality on JK resources.” She said the civil society wants to know the “authenticity” of the statement from the Prime Minister as it has the potential to “sow further seeds of conflict and public unrest.” Greater Kashmir yesterday reported that in reply to a question regarding specifics of JK’s project transfer demand, Shinde had said the proposal was still under consideration and did not set any time frame on its finality. Apparently conveying the Government of India’s objections to the transfer demand, Shinde said the projects under consideration are old and it is better to go for new ones. “We have suggested to the state government to start work on new power stations with the Centre’s assistance,” he had disclosed. KCSDS member Shakeel Qalander said on one hand Government of India has always rejected to give counter guarantee to JK for obtaining international funding for setting up power projects and on the other hand Union Minister is talking about assistance to JK for building new projects. Despite vast hydropower potential, he said, the state has harnessed just 308 MW of electricity, excluding 450 MW Baghliar-I, for past 60 years. “Shall Government of India and state government boast on this meager achievement?” Qalander asked. “Is state government and Center ready to face the unrest in J&K due to the statement by Union Minister?” For past many months state government has repeatedly said it will buy back 690-MW Salal, 450-MW Uri-I and 390-MW Dulhasti from the NHPC. It has maintained that NHPC has no ownership rights on the projects it is controlling in JK and instead JK owns them. A cabinet sub-committee set up by the government last year to review all pacts with NHPC on different projects in JK has also recommended that state should buy back Salal and Uri from the Corporation. Qalander said let state government take an initiative on taking control of the projects. “NHPC is an illegal occupant of the projects and it has to be dislodged,” he said. “Otherwise Government of India and State Government will have to face public unrest.” The KCSDS members took a dig at state government for failing to take up the transfer of the projects with Government of India. President Jammu & Kashmir Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JKJCCI), Mubeen Shah, said the setting up of committees and sub-committees by the State Government on the issue is only a “dilly-dallying tactic.” “They are maintaining criminal silence on the issue which is at the core of the economic development of the state,” Shah said. He said transfer of projects to JK will help the state to come out of economic strangulations but it needs political will both at the Center and state level. “Any kind of deal with the NHPC on setting up of the power projects will never serve the interests of the state,” Shah said. “It is shocking that state government has signed Memorandum of Understanding with the Corporation for setting more projects.” The civil society group is planning to organize a seminar in coming days on the issue.