SRINAGAR: Privatisation of power sector across India has not been able to put an end to the commercial losses the government suffers in purchasing power. And Jammu and Kashmir, where, after the abrogation of the state’s special status two years ago, the power department was converted into a corporation with an aim to bring an end to the loss cycles, has become the leader in terms of losses suffered.
As per the government data, JK recorded aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses of 60.5% in the last fiscal (till March 2021), the worst among all Indian states and UTs in this regard. J&K was followed by Nagaland (52.9%), Arunachal Pradesh (45.7%), Bihar (40.4%) and Tripura (37.9%) in the list of most AT&C losses.
As per the data, which is with Kashmir Reader, in the last fiscal 2020-21, the J&K Power Corporation Limited (JKPCL) realised Rs 1,081 crore revenue as against the target of Rs 2,400 crore, that is, less than 50 percent of it. This revenue amount was the same as that of the 2019-20 fiscal.
The government had claimed that the conversion of the department to a corporation would increase the revenue realisation, an aim which has clearly failed. In a list released publicly last year, the highest defaulters in power bills in the state included former ministers, businessmen and defence establishments. Among the recurrent defaulters were former J&K Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh, senior PDP leader and former minister Naeem Akhter, and former minister Pawan Gupta.
Administrative departments alone owed over Rs 53 crore to the erstwhile PDD (Power Development Department), the Srinagar Municipal Corporation topping the list. The area-wise details say that in the just concluded financial year, it is the ‘Circle Second’ which owes the most. Spread over Ganderbal, Sumbal and Bandipora, this circle had a target of over Rs 600 crore but ended up realising less than Rs 250 crore.
The Circle Pulwama is second on this list. Spanning the regions of Pulwama, Awantipora and Shopian, it realised less than Rs 150 crore against the target of over Rs 370 crore.
This is despite the fact that India has been successfully reducing the deficit between what it costs to buy power and what it costs to supply it. Insiders in the power department believe that the losses, which are quite impossible to make up in the near future, have been because consumers pay less rates for power than what they should, the department realises less revenue than it should, and meanwhile there is a rise in power costs.
Conversion of power departments to corporations in India has been chequered in a way that not even a single region has been converted in one go. JK was among the last to join the bandwagon. How such conversion helps in the finances remains to be seen.