J&K Power projects: Story of exploitation, plunder & surrender

kashmir power


State of J & K is most probably only piece of land on the world map that despite being profusely rich in many resources of self-reliance & self-satisfaction is not, & has not been, enabled to reap their benefit to its full advantage. Huge hydroelectric power resources of the State have not been exploited by the government-politicians & State-administration for the State’s own & residents’ benefit. Till date, people of J & K, especially, Kashmir valley, remain plunged in deep darkness of several hours’ power-cuts, more during cold weathers of winter, autumn & no less in hot weather, with erratic & intermittent power supply. Too “low-voltage” of under 100V is not usable for any domestic purposes except with the backup of generators, home-power transformers & inverters. The people use alternate energy appliances of electricity like batteries, inverters, fuel-generators, solar energy systems, etc, to compensate the long hours of “load-shedding” & “extremely irregular & low voltage” of electric power supplied to domestic users & consumers. In absence of the alternate energy appliances, what look the valley will present is not any difficult to visualise. It is anybody’s guess. Position would obviously not be much different from where Kashmir stood decades ago. These are not myths but brute facts of actual living in Kashmir. Subtract the said alternate energy appliances from homes & other places, and let you decide yourselves. More facts to be necessarily noted here: (1) These home alternate energy appliances are not used elsewhere in India than Kashmir. (2) Owing to erratic & extremely low voltage supply, they get damaged frequently & on regular basis the Kashmiris have to bear the huge cost on their repairing & replacing.  Pathetically, such huge costs on alternate energy used by the Kashmiris do not usually come in reckoning by the Indians. Nor probably by happy go lucky Kashmiris people even. 

Coming to the main discussion:

The estimated hydro power potential of J&K is 20,000 MW, of which, as per JKPDC, about 16,475 MW have been identified in Chenab basin (11283 MW), Jhelum basin (3084 MW), Ravi Basin (500 MW) & Indus basin (1608 MW). The J&K Power Development Corporation [JKPDC] owns & runs 21 “small” hydroelectric power projects in the State that generate only 761.96 MW of electricity while actual requirement of the State is about 2500 MW of electric energy. Then, how the State is “managing” the deficit? Actually, the State is buying the deficit-electricity of 70% Greater Kashmir dated 20-01-2017 for its domestic requirement from NHPC which is India’s largest hydropower generating utility, undertaking. J&K is paying annually power bills of 4000 Crore slapped by the NHPC on its exchequer. Greater Kashmir dated 26-05-2018 The power bills that are drawn by the NHPC on the State exchequer are ever-increasing, damaging the over-all economic development of cash-starved-State & burdening its exchequer. Some media reports of India, quoting NHPC officials, mention that the State has no money to pay its dues to the NHPC which empowers it to suspend supply of power to the State. But “given the sensitivities involved…..the notice for regulation (of February 2017) was withdrawn because it was the peak of winter. One can’t be heartless and stop power then…..Also, it being Jammu and Kashmir, we have to be soft on them.” Livemint dated 31-03-2014  The same online source admits that “of the 4,857 MW generated by NHPC, around 2,000 MW is generated from the State. NHPC supplies 820 MW to JK”. It means more than 40% of the total power is generated by NHPC- run seven power-projects of  JK alone while the rest of the power is generated & coming from six other Contributing-States of NHPC. If we add a 330 MW Kishangaga power project at Gurez Bandipora that has been commissioned in March 2018 & inaugurated by Mr. Modi in May 2018, Firstpost dated 25-05-2018 the power generating ratio of JK projects, among all projects of NHPC in India, has gone much higher than 40%.

Seven “mega” hydroelectric power projects within the State of JK that are fully run by NHPC are Salal, Uri-1, Uri-II, Dulhasti, Chutak, Sewa-II & Nimmo Bazgo.  These seven power projects, as noted above, are contributing 40% plus power supply to the National Grid of NHPC. This 40% figure is without adding Kishangaga power project of 330 MW to total receiving capacity of NHPC (4,857 MW) from all contributing States. If we add 330 MW of newly commissioned Kishangaga power project to the figure, total receiving power of NHPC as on date becomes 5157 MW of which 2300 MW alone is contributed by the State power projects which comes out 44.59% of total receiving capacity of NHPC. Extraordinary contribution, beyond exaggeration.

 Apart from NHPC, one more GOI undertaking, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd, has been planning to start a joint venture with J&K PDC to harness water resources of the State for generating electricity. But such a joint venture would signal death blow to the J&K PDC’s capability to use its own water resources for domestic & non domestic consumption. Greater Kashmir dated 27-07-2018

How it happened:

Now, the question is how the aforesaid seven projects came in the absolute control of GOI that owns & runs NHPC? It was precisely on 20th July 2000 when NC government, through Farooq Abdullah, as Party President & CM of the State, “transferred” these seven power projects to the GOI through NHPC. The MOU was signed by Farooq Abdullah & the then Union Power Minister, Kumaramanglam. Initially, the State Government had planned to develop these projects at its own but due to financial constraints it could not be done. According to NC’s Vision Document of 2008, some foreign companies had offered to provide 85% financial assistance for developing these hydroelectric power projects of the State & the State had already received concurrence for development of some of these projects by the foreign agencies. It further claims that the foreign investors had insisted on issuance of the counter-guarantee by the GOI, and that as the GOI “stalled” the process of issuing counter-guarantee to the foreign investors to pay them in case of default of dues committed by the State Government, the proposal could not see light of the day. Thus, it asserts, Government of JK through NC was “forced” to ask the GOI to take up & develop these seven projects through NHPC & that the foreign-investors-proposal was “deliberately undermined to pave way for others to exploit our water resources”.

Visibly, NC government may have thought that 12% power royalty quota “free of cost” [that the State till date is getting from NHPC under MOU] was a better alternative choice & that MOU between the State Government & GOI was signed on the understanding of BOOT, that is, “power projects would be built, operated, owned and transferred back to the State after money invested was recovered by NHPC had been agreed by the power ministry of the Government of India”, but it admits that “unfortunately the understanding didn’t get translated into an agreement” & that it was agreed that the details of the transfer agreement “would be worked out later.” Why & how NC did leave such an extremely important “deal of power projects” going ahead without proper transfer documentation of BOOT with the GOI is a question that hardly needs answer keeping in mind track record of NC.

The ugly reality that turns out today is that the NHPC is running these seven power projects under MOU signed by & between NC government & GOI in 2000. No formal agreement setting forth comprehensive details of the arrangement that was arrived at between GOI & NC Government in 2000 has been signed between the parties. And, the GOI is making good use of the NC Government’s “historically blundering upward-trajectory” since 1939,1947 & 1975. So, it is rightly said that “bad power deal leaves JK in dark”. Tehelka dated 27-08-2011 From 2000 till date, all State Governments have been continuously requesting the GOI /NHPC to transfer these or at least some of these projects to the State under the arrangement of 2000. But the GOI has been repeatedly rejecting the request of the State Governments Greater Kashmir dated 12-10-2017 till date with impunity despite BOOT arrangement in place, as mentioned above.  

Under the BOOT arrangement, the projects were to be returned to the State after 35 years which implies that within 35 years it was agreed that the total investment of NHPC on the seven projects would get cleared by the profit earned by it from supplying & selling power to other States including JK. The JK RTI Movement in the recent past on 12-10-2017 has published the data supplied to RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi, which is partner organisation of JK RTI Movement. It claims that NHPC has during the last 15 years earned a whopping profit of 19, 431 Crore/ Rs. 194 billion from seven power projects run by it in the State of JK. Kashmir Observer dated 22-04-2016 A report, Tribune dated 07-05-2016, says that NHPC has till then invested Rs. 18, 000 Crore in JK power projects & that many more projects with a generating capacity of 2964 MW are under various stages of clearance which include Bursar hydroelectric project (800MW) in Kishtawar & Pakal Dul Dam Project at Marusadar River in Kishtawar (1000 MW). The total cost of the power royalty quota given to the State is Rs. 144 Crore per annum while NHPC is earning 11 times more from State’s power projects annually, claims another RTI activist. Greater Kashmir dated 02-03-2018: Road to Exploitation

It is clear that despite that the bulk of cheap hydroelectric power is generated by J&K water resources for NHPC which it is selling to other States of India, namely, Haryana, Delhi, HP, UT of Chandigarh, UP, Rajasthan & in particular Punjab, illuminating millions of homes & running industry there, the people of J&K are miserably reeling under the long hours of darkness, in all weathers, all seasons, especially biting cold winters, since decades. Reportedly, “State was to get 13% of its share of free power from NHPC-owned venture of Kishanganga Power Project , the Tribune, 16-05-2018, but  that 13 % royalty quota if received by the State will not improve worst power scenario of the State especially Kashmir valley. PM Modi while inaugurating Kishanganga Power Project said: “”This state (JK) has the potential not only to meet its own requirements, but can also produce power for the rest of the country”.  Business Today 20-05-2018 The statement may be true as far as rest of India is concerned, but the fact is that J&K State especially Kashmir valley continues to reel under darkness & erratic power supply since decades during cold weathers.  

Sad story:

Apart from prima facie sell-outs of the power projects to New Delhi by the JK’s ruling-political-class for satiating their undying power-hunger, India has been exploiting the interests of a small population of JK, if the assertions made in NC’s Vision Document are believed to be correct that the projects had have to be returned to the State before expiry of the 35 years arrangement. But none from GOI has refuted them either. Instead of meeting out the demands of the State government for return of the power projects, a report compiled by CAG, Comptroller & Auditor General of India, Tribune dated 03-08-  2017, JKPDC has turned defaulter as it has not regularly paid its electricity bills since 1999 & that the pending amount has accumulated to Rs 2,808.04 Crore as of March 2017”.

In this scenario of claim & counter-claim, demand & rejection, what finally emerges is the fact that there has never been any agreement between NHPC & the State Government as the NHPC had never sought license from the State Government for setting up & commissioning of these projects in the State. It is not only these seven projects. GOI/NHPC does not seem to have bothered to follow any prior legal formalities  of transferring land & water resources by the State to it by way of a lease & license under the State Transfer of Property Act & Water Resources (Regulation & Management) Act, insofar as construction & execution of Kishanganga Power Project in Gurez Bandipora, Bursar Hydroelectric & Pakal Dul Dam Projects in Kishtawar are concerned. Dislocation of local population Darde Sheena community & persistent environmental concerns too have been expressed against Kishanganga Power Project. Greater Kashmir dated 14-08-2011 The same has gone unnoticed by the “power holders” at Delhi.

Under the Jammu and Kashmir Water Resources (Regulation & Management) Act, 2010, it is provided, inter alia, that any corporation or body , etc, intending to use water resources of the State for generating electricity has to apply for & get prior “license” for it from the State Water Resources Regulatory Authority set up under the Act. This Act was passed by NC government in the backdrop of the 2010 Kashmir uprising in which some 127 youth lost their lives. This much avowed Act was passed with declared policy that power projects of the State will be reclaimed from the NHPC. Since its demands have fallen on deaf ears of NHPC, expectedly so, can we ask: was this Act passed to lower the anger that was invoked by 2010 events against NC’s actions including transfer of the power projects to the GOI?

“This, therefore, amounts to fraud and illegal occupation of land and resources of the State …[by] NHPC …is virtually contemptuous towards the law of the land, has never entered into any agreement with the State government for the execution of hydro-electric power projects in Jammu and Kashmir. The State government has either unilaterally through Cabinet decisions or through negotiations with the Central government always gifted various projects to NHPC …..” CurrentNews reporting former president of Chamber of Commerce Jammu and Kashmir, Shakeel Qalandar 

Lastly, one more bid to get back power projects from NHPC to JK State was categorically rejected by the Union Power Minister, RK Singh, although ex-State Finance Minister of PDP, Mr. Drabu had said on floor of State Assembly: “It is my word that we will get back the power projects from GOI”. Rising Kashmir dated 13-10-2015 How & when these power projects were going to be returned to the State were & are the questions that can scratch answer from the past & future history of ruling-parties of JK? Barely one month before BJP broke its alliance with PDP in June 2018, PDP had already shown its inclination to “take foot off the demand for return of projects and instead seek increase in free power given to J&K from NHPC-owned projects in the state”. Greater Kashmir dated 28-05–2018 

All opposition political parties of JK Assembly have had vehemently criticised, right so, Alliance Partner, PDP, for failure to get back the power projects to the State, Greater Kashmir dated 13-10-2018 as it was stated to be an agreed basic point in Agenda of Alliance between PDP & BJP. That said, the irony is that NC which is apparently architect of this whole [surreptitious] deal, called MOU, of transferring power projects in lieu of political power, has been clamouring during its opposition days from rooftops. There is saying in English that fits in the context. It is that a thief is boisterous about malaise of thieving.

End word:

In some media columns, an intended confusion is created in the minds of masses that Indus Water Treaty between India & Pakistan brokered by the World Bank in 1960 is responsible for power woes of the people of the State. Such opinions depict utter ignorance of recorded facts & events bearing upon J&K Power projects & Indus Water Treaty which operate in two different historical dimensions. The Indus Water Treaty needs to be discussed separately in future. 

However, it is a fact that whatever royalty and imported quotas of power the State is getting from NHPC, the same are not adequately, satisfactorily and efficiently managed for local consumption. Reasons are several: Incomplete construction of two main power-receiving-grids from NHPC at Alestang & Budgam, haphazard laying of transmission lines, dilapidated mohalla/ village transformers, low-capacity feeders at receiving stations & huge corruption in the concerned department & undertaking of the State government. All this too contributes to power woes of Kashmiris.   

Note: Views expressed are purely personal of the author & not of the organisation he works for.

M J Aslam is Author, academic, story-teller,freelance columnist. Presently, AVP, J&K Bank. 


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