Power Play

It is entirely possible that the Jammu and Kashmir government, led by Omar Abdullah, may pull a rabbit out of its hat with respect to power supply just before it goes in to seek a fresh mandate from the electorate. After it got a hiding in the parliamentary polls, the NC-led dispensation lost no time in reversing its policy on issues it had been arguing were the merits of the case. In the subcontinent, principles have rarely won against populism, particularly when pushing to grab or retain political power.

But this is easier said than done when the question pertains to electric power in a state super-abundant in hydel potential. A political alliance that rode to victory on bijli, has short-circuited, if not totally electrocuted, itself on one of the most pressing aspects of the power supply situation in Kashmir – massive losses in the Transmission and Distribution system.

Despite repeated directions from the Union Government to increase revenue collection, the Power Development Department (PDD) has even failed to conduct auditing of power stations and sub-stations under the Energy Accounting System. Thousands units are lost due to the faulty distribution network , and to prevent this, the state government had announced to introduce energy accounting of power stations in 2012, but so far the plan has not taken practical shape.

Under the Accounting System, the officer responsible for distribution of electricity was to be made accountable for the units supplied over a particular feeder. Supposedly advanced and sophisticated metering devices installed at grid stations were neither reliable nor subjected to regular reliability tests. It appears that the union government’s directives have been followed on paper only.

 Despite investing crores of rupees in revamping the power sector, especially in the state’s two capitals, the PDD has failed to prepare any Disaster Management (DM) plan in case of a major breakdown in the electricity supply. In a recent report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had revealed that no disaster management setup existed in the state for immediate restoration of the transmission system in the event of a major failure or fault.

Auditors have put Jammu and Kashmir’s transmission and distribution losses at 50 to 60 per cent, and this even when power supply is severely rationed, and every government complains how deeply in debt the state is with respect to its power purchase bill.

It remains to be seen whether the magic wand the NC-led state government waved over the issues of retirement age and recruitment policy after its drubbing in general elections would work in the case of power losses.