Kashmir’s 18-hour power cuts are ‘collective punishment’, says Opposition

The Valley is in the middle of the longest power cuts in two decades, with 12 to 16 hours of cuts per day, according to locals.

Published - November 24, 2023 05:09 am IST - SRINAGAR

A lineman repairs an electricity line in Kahmir. File.

A lineman repairs an electricity line in Kahmir. File. | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

Kashmir is dealing with its worst electricity crisis with power generation hitting a record low of 50-100 MegaWatts (MWs) against the demand of 1800 MWs, badly impacting the life of over 70 lakh people.

The Valley is in the middle of the longest power cuts in two decades, with 12 to 16 hours of cuts per day, according to locals. The prolonged cuts come at a time when the night temperatures are already sub-zero in the Valley. Badly affected are the elderly, especially chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients, whose numbers go up during the winters.

“My father, who is in his 70s, is a COPD patient. We had to buy a generator so that his oxygen concentrator machine runs without disruptions. I don’t think all families can afford generators. Prolonged power cuts are a death knell for such patients,” Imtiyaz Khan, a showroom owner from Srinagar’s Lal Bazaar, said. Students appearing for their year-end examinations are also facing great difficulty.

Poor governance

Power cuts, were reduced to six to four hours by previous regimes. This was done by timely purchase of power from the Northern Grid.

Kashmir requires 1800 MW of power to maintain electricity supply for 16 hours a day. For round-the-clock supply, 2200 to 2300 MWs is required. According to the Power Development Department (PDD) it generates between 50-100 MWs a day. Earlier 200-250 MWs were generated during the winters too.

“There was a prolonged dry spell in Kashmir this year. It was followed by freezing temperatures in November, which has further slowed down water discharge in rivers like the Jhelum. This has hit production badly,” a PDD official said.

At present, the government purchases 1150 MWs but still falls short by 650 MWs. That would reduce power cuts to six to eight hours.

The Jhelum’s discharge (total annual discharge of 42.87 lakh cusecs) was down significantly from the expected 73,000 cusecs in October this year.

Collective punishment

“We have to fix responsibility. Why didn’t officers raise an alarm about dip in water discharge and prepare a proposal to purchase from the Northern Grid. This crisis did not happen overnight. There was a prolonged dry spell for all of us to observe. If there was an elected government such a crisis would not have happened and the responsibility would have been fixed,” J&K Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari said. “It’s collective punishment. The L-G should go to Delhi and seek help from the Centre,” Mr. Bukhari said.

Official sources said the Lieutenant Governor’s administration has set up a committee to purchase electricity from the Northern Grid, as it has started affecting hospitals and other vital installations too. However, the cost per unit at the Northern Grid at present is Rs 42 against Rs. 3-4 being charged from consumers in J&K.

Meanwhile, several leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP held a street protest at the party headquarters in Srinagar over the power crisis.

“Unscheduled power cuts in the Kashmir Valley have reached an alarming level, causing widespread disruptions. The lack of consistent electricity supply has led to significant losses in multiple sectors, impacting businesses, education, healthcare, and overall quality of life,” a PDP spokesman said.

The spokesman said the disruptions were in spite of installations of smart meters. “The investment in these meters has not translated into an improved electricity distribution system, causing immense frustration among citizens who have borne significant financial burden without reaping the intended advantages,” she said.

Facing a public outcry, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar Bidhuri said the power scenario was expected to improve within a week. “The power schedule announced earlier is not being adhered to as demand has abruptly gone up due to the early onset of winter. We are expecting an improvement in the power scenario as Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and the Chief Secretary have constituted a committee for power purchase,” he said.

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