ANANTNAG: While the authorities often blame consumers for not paying their power bills, in Pahalgam, which is under the jurisdiction of power sub-division Aishmuqam, it is the government itself which is the biggest defaulter. And Indian security forces are second on that list.
Information furnished by the assistant executive engineer (AEE), in response to an RTI application filed by a local activist, reveals that except Jammu and Kashmir Bank none of the government offices operating at the tourist spot, and other areas of the sub-division, have paid their bills for the last several years.
Surprisingly, the Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA), the main nodal agency for the development and maintenance of the tourist hub, is the biggest defaulter of all the departments as it owes Rs 4.14 crore to the PDD. Indian security forces stationed here are the second-biggest defaulters with an outstanding bill of Rs 1.41 crore. The Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation (JKTDC), which generates huge revenue annually in the resort, owes Rs 10.45 lakh to the PDD while the tourism department owes Rs 18.87 lakh.
The Roads and Buildings office of the area owes Rs 11.74 lakh to the power department while the hospitality and protocol department has an outstanding bill of Rs 6.17 lakh. The health department too has not paid the electricity charges for several years and owes Rs 17.94 lakh; the PHE department owes Rs 13.86 lakh and the irrigation department Rs 1.89 lakh.
The local activist who filed the RTI seeking information about PDD defaulters said that it was ironical that even departments which generate crores of rupees annually at the tourist spot are not paying the electricity tariff. “If a poor consumer fails to pay his monthly tariff on time the electricity to his house is snapped without delay, but on the other hand government departments are using the electricity without paying any tariff for years altogether,” he told Kashmir Reader.
Assistant executive engineer (PDD) of the area, Mushtaq Ahmad, admitted that most of the government departments located in the sub-division owe crores of rupees to the PDD, but added that the department could not snap their power supply.
“This is not the case in Pahalgam sub-division alone, but in the entire Valley. Pahalgam is a tourist place and we cannot snap power supply to important departments like PDA or tourism. The decision to recover dues from defaulting departments has to be taken at the top level,” the officer said.