Along with the winter comes cold-gusty winds and emptiness in the air, with many other unadorned effects that make living harsh. That of course, doesn’t appease the people. They could manage with the help of electricity; but, with frequent power cuts and long-duration-off-electricity-schedules it is hard to endure life. This shortage of electricity in winter, due to heightened consumption, with our relying more and more on our electronic implements, isn’t an issue particular to Kashmir only. Days in and out the people, all over Kashmir, are seen disparaging the authorities for their lax behaviour in providing the electricity: even when the people have been paying bills regularly they are left to suffer amid freezing cold winters.
People are turning away from using traditional methods of surviving in harsh winters and are becoming increasingly dependent on electricity. Even for basic needs like water, there are electricity based pumps; so, the electricity crisis impacts the availability of water too. The people in outrage rebuke the ministers of Kashmir for their failures in getting power projects back from the centre. Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the J&K Government and the Government of India seven hydropower projects of the state were transferred to the NHPC (National Hydroelectric Power Corporation) for a period of ten years for funding, execution and operation. And the MoU includes a clause requiring both the state and the centre to work out a methodology for handing over these projects back to the J&K government. But that never happened. This NHPC, which was linked by the former Congress minister Taj Mohiuddin to the East India Company, has earned tens of thousands of crores from these J&K based power projects. The irony is that the state has to buy electricity from the NHPC, barring the right of the state to its own hydroelectric projects. This has become a cliché for Kashmiris now: we call it an irony (providing electricity to the other states of India, and making their own people, to whom these resources belong, suffer). This incarnates the political control of the centre to keep the state financially clogged.
The returning of the power projects to the state was a part of the Agenda of Alliance of the new coalition government (PDP-BJP). Haseeb Ahmed Drabu, the finance minister of Jammu and Kashmir, expressed confidence that the Centre would also agree to return the power projects to Jammu and Kashmir; he said: I will not contest the next election, if the power projects don’t come. I’m quite confident, they will come. It is going to happen. Some people made fun of this on social media. We’ll have to wait to see if he will remember his promise or if he, along with his party, would actually get the power projects back. The latter, if it really happens, would be a step forward to restore the power crisis in the valley. It would also benefit the state economically. That in return will be good for their party too, a way forward to re-establish their lost status in the Valley – a sort of advantage for their coalition.
Besides general reasons for the electricity shortage, like low rainfall for the low production of electricity, the officials are accusing consumers of illegal consumption of electricity; many unregistered families use electricity without paying bills. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were distributed to every registered household by the government at a very low cost to replace incandescent light bulbs so to reduce the amount of electric energy.
Also, there should be awareness programmes for the local people to avoid wasting electricity such as shutting down lights, heaters and other appliances when it is not needed. Even educated people show zero sensibility when it comes to limit the use of electricity. There must be the revival of local methods for heating and cooking, and the use of solar energy will also enhance our not being completely dependent on electricity. With the initiative of underground cables the loss of electrical energy will be low and the illegal usage of electricity will be phased out.
Muddasir Ramzan studied English Literature. He was born in 1990 in Kashmir, India, where he resides. He can be reached at muddasirramzan[at]gmail[dot]com.