Four years later, plan to ‘unbundle’ power dept still a plan

Four years later, plan to ‘unbundle’ power dept still a plan

SRINAGAR: More than four years have passed since the Jammu and Kashmir government ordered the division of Power Development Department (PDD) into four separate entities, with the aim to reduce power losses, give financial autonomy, and bring accountability and transparency, but it is yet to happen.
The Power Development Department (PDD) manages the transmission and distribution of power in the state. The Omar Abdullah-led government had in September 2012 decided to unbundle it into four corporations: Jammu & Kashmir State Power Transmission Company Limited (SPTCL), State Power Trading Company Limited, Distribution Company Limited, and Kashmir Power Distribution Company Limited.
Insiders in the department told Kashmir Reader that the division would have helped the state in reducing the power deficit to a large extent. They said that the new corporations would have received functional autonomy which would have made them fiscally responsible for themselves.
The division, according to insiders in the department, was also aimed at reducing the workload on the PDD by creating a system to deal with transmission and distribution losses, to make better negotiations for purchase of power, and to maintain a commercial account which has not been maintained so far by the department.
“JK is among the only few states in India where the unbundling has not been done. The current system is so hotch-potch that the department has to get permission of secretary-level officers for taking even a small step. In short, if it gets financial autonomy, it will make it more responsible and accountable,” a superintending officer in the PDD said.
The PDD which distributes electricity to more than 20 lakh households has to reduce its power deficit, which has grown considerably over the past years. At present, energy consumption in the state is more than 6,000 MUs, more than half of which is purchased from central power stations and private players, the rest managed by its own production.
In the last financial year, the state had to give the department more than Rs 2,500 crore to purchase electricity. This burden is compounded, according to insiders, by the inability to purchase electricity at a lower cost, and by commercial, technical and transmission and distribution losses. Besides this, the state cannot realise the target power tariff because of defaulters which include the general public, state departments, and security establishments. Insiders said that this burden would increase by double figures by 2019-20 as the consumption of electricity would shoot up by more than 12,000 MUs.
“At present, PDD has to look at transmission, distribution of electricity, and management of its small power projects. It also has to look into various infrastructural projects and upgrade of distribution infrastructure. The unbundling would divide this work among various corporations with accountability and transparency. It will also help to understand the quantum of losses with more precision,” officials of the department said.
The only problem with the unbundling is of absorbing the employees of the department in the new corporations. Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu in his power budget this year assured that the government will be “unbundling the department without prejudicing the service conditions of any of the employees.”
President of JK Electrical Engineers Graduate Association, Peerzada Hidayatullah told Kashmir Reader that the PDD is not against the division of the department if the interests of employees are taken care of.
“We want the state government to make us party to everything. We want them to give us in writing that our interests will not be diluted at any cost,” Hidyatullah said.
In this year’s budget, Drabu had mentioned that the government would be putting SPTCL in operation in the current financial year. However, a top official told Kashmir Reader that no steps for this have been initiated as of now.
“All the companies have been registered but no step has been taken to put them in operation. Regarding the SPTCL, talks are being held for the past six months to convert the commercial wing of PDD into the corporation, but nothing concrete has happened. Nothing can be said on when it will happen,” a senior official of PDD told Reader.

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