Powerless Kashmir

Powerless Kashmir

Kashmir is powerless, both in the literal and figurative sense of the term. This is, of course, stating the obvious but the reference is to the electricity (power) woes that have hit the valley. The power crisis that has the Kashmir in a viselike grasp comes at a time when electricity is needed most during the coldest period of winter. No doubt the demand for electricity during this time far outstrips the generation. But, this does not and should not exonerate the government for its repeated failures in ensuring a steady supply to the denizens. This assumes poignancy given the fact the “mainstream” politics hinges and revolves around bread and butter or governance issues. The strange irony is that the mainstream fails in the domain of governance too. Power woes that serially and repeatedly hit the state can then perhaps also be attributed to the political class of Kashmir. The reasons cannot only be political even though politics, public policy and governance are inextricably linked.
Are there then technical reasons for the serial powerless that bedevils Kashmir? Yes. Indeed. Electricity in Kashmir is generated through snow fed rivers whose capacity diminishes in winter. Moreover, there is the issue of carrying or storage capacity. In tandem, these two issues mean that power generation capacity suffers in Kashmir. Overlaying these factors are what are called Transmission and Distribution(T&D) losses plus power theft. In combination, the cumulative effect of these is less power for the denizens.
But these assessments are superficial. Scratch the surface a bit and what emerges is the real picture of powerlessness in Kashmir. The only natural resource that is in abundance in Kashmir is water. Despite the ebbs and flows of the intensity of the flow of water in Kashmir, it stands to reason that more electricity can be generated, stored and perhaps be even exported, if modern technology is vigorously employed to obviate our power woes. Introduction of latest technologies would also mean and entail allowing market forces to work in the power sector. Broken down, this could mean allowing or creating a fecund environment for entrepreneurs to invest and yield dividends on their investment in the sector.
Of course, the state would have a role to play but its role could be a regulatory one and laying down the basic parameters of partnerships between the state and the market players (say in the nature of Public Private Partnerships) and not seeing the power sector as a natural monopoly of the state. All this would entail and imply a level playing field, vigorous rules and above all transparency, accountability and political will. But then it is in these domains that the state flounders. This harks back to the point that the power problem in Kashmir is political, like perhaps everything else here.

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