SRINAGAR: Even as majority of schools in Kashmir are without an electricity connection, the liabilities of the valley’s School Education Department in unpaid electricity bills have accumulated to almost Rs 7 crore.
Official data accessed by Kashmir Reader from Power Development Department (PDD) divisions across Kashmir reveal that the School Education Department in the valley has not paid electricity bills worth Rs 6,67,70,260 to the Power department.
An official in the PDD said that besides the valley schools that are electrified, the due amount was for the electricity consumption at the department offices including those of CEOs, ZEOs and others.
The time period for which the bills have not been paid could not be verified.
The unpaid bills of almost Rs 7 crore have accrued, even as majority of the government-run schools in Kashmir are without an electricity connection.
The recently released Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)-2018, said that a meagre 31.2 percent of the surveyed schools in the state had electricity connections.
In November last year, Kashmir Reader reported on how 81 percent of government-run schools in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district were without electricity.
Talking to Kashmir Reader on condition of anonymity, a top School Education Department official blamed the state’s Finance Department and even the PDD for the crores-worth of unpaid electricity bills .
“Let the Finance Department give it (the money), we will liquidate it,” he said of the unpaid electricity bills.
The official rued that the department did not release funds as per their requirement.
“Whatever we project, we don’t get it (from the Finance Department). Let the Finance Department directly transfer it to PDD. We don’t have any issues with that,” he added.
The official alleged that the PDD charged the department “at commercial rates”.
He said that as per national policy, the PDD was supposed to charge the School Education Department at domestic rates.
“They (PDD) are very harsh on us by charging us on commercial rates. We don’t have that much electricity consumption. In schools, most of the consumption is on ICT labs set up at in higher secondary schools,” said the official.
An official in the School Education Department posted in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district also criticised the PDD for charging the department at commercial rates.
“We are not a commercial organisation, right? When it comes to facilities for students, the cost should be even lesser than domestic rates,” he added.