Power sector in the state of Jammu and Kashmir has been a cause of concern. The issue has assumed such mammoth proportions that the government decided to present a separate power budget to initiate major reforms in the sector.
As of now the power deficit has reached Rs 3,927 crore and if the power sector finances are taken care of, the state will not have a budgetary gap of Rs 2,988 crore and instead of a deficit budget the state will have the luxury of having a surplus budget.
No wonder then that the state government expected that if there is complete consensus across political parties, government and civil society on any issue, it is the power sector which can turn around the fortunes of the government finances, put the state economy on a high and sustainable growth trajectory and make life easier for the people.
This thought process has been dominating the state government from the last several decades, yet sadly, the power sector continues to be unexplored in term of generation, archaic in terms of transmission and inefficient in terms of distribution.
The economic costs of this are very high and the financial burden is crippling the state and impairing its capacity to spend for the welfare of people.
Ironically, there is an unfunded gap of Rs 2988 crore when the power deficit in financial terms is Rs 3927 crore . However, in other word if the power sector finances are taken care of, the state will not have the budgetary gap and instead it will be a surplus.
The increased and incurring losses in the power sector being the reason that the government is not able to provide adequate quantity and appropriate quality of power to our people.
As of now, the state’s peak demand for power has grown by over 8 per cent during the period from 2011 to 2015 and the peak deficit has decreased from 28 per cent in financial year 2012-13 to 23 per cent in financial year 2015-16.
We all know that the state is energy deficient and has to rely on power purchases from Northern Region Grid to meet its requirements, especially during winters when demand peaks and own generation is reduced drastically with the result there remains a large gap between requirement and availability of energy.
However, all said and done, questions are raised as to what is the government doing to get the power sector up and running. The key aspect of reforms is nowhere in sight and the governments non-serious attitude is ruining the sector to the point of no return.
We can claim with ease that the government has failed miserably on taking any initiative on the reforms in power sector.
Take for an example the Jammu and Kashmir State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) that was established by way of Act of the State Legislature in the year 2000 for rationalization of electricity tariff, transparent policies regarding subsidies, promotion of efficient and environmentally benign policies and matters.
The primary objectives of the SERC are to determine the tariff for electricity, wholesale, bulk, grid or retail; determine the tariff payable for use of the transmission facilities, regulate power purchase and procurement process of the transmission utilities and distribution utilities including the price at which the power shall be procured from the generating companies, generating stations or from other sources for transmission, sale, distribution and supply in the State.
This indicates that the Commission is armed with many sensitive and important powers and functions and as such its functionality has to be regular and effective. But the ground reality is that two members of the Commission completed their form two years back and Chairperson demitted office after completion of his term in December 2016.
The question is when the Commission is lying defunct who is going to decide urgent matters especially the rationalization of electricity tariff. According to the Act through which the Commission came into being, the Government is required to make nomination for the Members or the Chairperson at least six months ahead of their superannuation or demitting of the office. In the present case, the Government has failed to observe this section of the Act.
The failure of the government in getting the SERC to work according to the needs reflects the mood and trend the present government is setting across the board. The trend seems that the government believes in selling dreams only and for this purpose the governments functionaries are acting like dream merchants and nothing beyond that.