Everyone in Jammu and Kashmir knows that the state government has failed to wrest its power projects back from the NHPC. So what was the Chief Minister’s ‘revelation’ in the Legislative Assembly the other day meant to convey? That the state had better write off its most precious resource to the central Corporation, and accept its exploitation as an unchangeable reality? This brings to mind another of the Chief Minister’s candid admissions about another of his cherished promises, the repeal of the AFSPA, which he made at a highly-publicized August 15 speech.
Admitting defeat on yet another front, the Chief Minister said that no new power project would be awarded to the NHPC now onwards. But he did not say anything about the projects his government and its predecessors have already signed over to the NHPC.
The Chief Minister also claimed that his government had taken the Uri-II and Dulhasti projects back from the NHPC, and that these projects are being run as joint ventures by the state and the central Corporation. But this is contrary to the facts on the ground: Uri II is operating under the NHPC since last year, and the Dulhasti project too continues to remain under NHPC control.
The victory Omar Abdullah has claimed with regard to new joint ventures in the power sector also falls flat in the face of facts. The venture, the newly-formed Chenab Valley Power Projects Corporation, is a deal with the NHPC, the State Power Development Corporation and the Power Trading Corporation of India (PTC), who have an equity participation of 49 percent, 49 percent and 2 percent respectively. The JV has been allotted three power projects, namely Pakal Dul, Kiru and Kwar, with an aggregate capacity of 2220 MW, in the Chenab River Basin on a turnkey bases. This is subject to the condition that the three companies will provide capital as per their share.
But serious questions have been raised about whether the state would be able to provide its share of the capital. In case of failure, the NHPC would automatically gain control of these projects as well. Again, in this venture, the J&K-owned State Power Development Corporation holds only 49 per cent share, while 51 per cent is held by the Government of India-controlled NHPC and PTC. With such an arrangement, control over the new venture’s board of directors will again be in the hands of New Delhi and not with the state government. So, is this not, to use a phrase from Omar Abdullah’s cabinet colleague, another East India Company in the making?