Fixing IWT Losses

The Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Corporation has sought permission from the Election Commission to invite tenders for engaging consultancies to quantify the loss to the state caused by the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT). An English firm entrusted the job backed out last year, and the JKPDC had been sleeping over the matter till date. Predictably, the government has woken up at election time, only to convey a wrong message.

The IWT issue has already generated heated debate ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, with many political parties including it in their elections manifestos. The delay in inviting fresh tenders reflects the lethargy of the people who run this vital corporation. And this is not the only time that it has failed the people. The Corporation has misplaced documents and agreements executed by the NHPC and state authorities. It is believed that the documents have been stolen for obvious reasons. The shocking disclosure was made by JKPDC officials when civil society groups launched a campaign seeking the return of NHPC-run power projects to the state. Surprisingly, no probe was ordered to fix responsibility for the severe lapse. This can have a serious bearing on the claims of the state.

But a probe can be ordered even now to fix responsibility. The documents have to be found and there cannot be any compromise on it. Meanwhile, the corporation must speed up the process of quantifying losses although it brings yet another shortcoming to the fore. By inviting fresh tenders, the Corporation has made clear that it is not aware of the losses suffered by the state because of the infamous treaty.

The IWT, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960 as a settlement for water-sharing, gives India exclusive rights to use waters of the eastern rivers – Sutlej, Beas and Ravi – and their tributaries before they enter Pakistan. Pakistan, in its turn, has rights over the waters of the western rivers – Chenab, Jhelum and Indus – which originate in J&K and then pass through Pakistan. It’s estimated that J&K has faced losses to the tune of Rs 20, 000 crore due to the water-sharing agreement that prevents the state from fully harnessing its water-resources for power generation.

There is no exit clause in the IWT, but nothing in the treaty bars Jammu and Kashmir from seeking compensation for its losses. The state has to show some seriousness.