Srinagar, Dec 05: Despite claims by the government about spending a hefty sum on upgrading, Kashmir Valley still lacks the required infrastructure for smooth power supply to the consumers.
For the last several years, the government has been claiming that hundreds of crores of rupees were spent on augmentation of power infrastructure.
Last year, the Government of India said Rs 8,000 crore was released to boost power sector in the state.
However, the valley is still battling the infrastructure shortage, resulting in power crisis.
As per the government documents, the total number of consumers in Kashmir is 9.65 lakh with a requirement of 1,332.04 MW fulfilled through 242 receiving stations.
However, only 42 per cent of consumers have been provided with meters.
An official of Power Development Department said the government has failed to upgrade the existing system in grid stations in Kashmir.
“The government recently approved Rs 146.12 crore for existing system in various grid stations where in 21 grid stations are being renovated either for upgrading also due to technological growth,” the official said.
The official said there were several projects that have not been completed in the last so many years.
One such project was Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) for rural electrification. The project was to cost around Rs 800 crore
The money, the official said, was to be utilised in the villages of Anantnag, Budgam, Bandipora, Baramulla, Ganderbal, and Kupwara districts in the valley.
Tenders for the project, he said, were floated multiple times since October 2016, until the two companies turned up to bag the project.
However, following disclosure about the companies’ “poor track record in other states” the project was stalled, the official said.
The official said that there is an immense load on Pampore and Zainakote power grids from where electricity is being supplied to Srinagar, Ganderbal, and Pulwama districts.
However, there are so many grid stations, where the work has been going on for the last so many years.
One such project is Alastang grid station, on which the work was started eight years earlier. The project has not been completed, which could have helped the power scenario in Kashmir.
The work on Alastang grid station was started in 2010 for transmission of electricity to Ganderbal district. “The two power grids face overloading resulting in frequent power cuts in Srinagar and Ganderbal districts. Presently, the Ganderbal gets electricity from Zainakote grid station and remains overloaded,” the official said.
“Had the Alastang grid station been completed, it would have reduced load on two existing power grids and helped the state to upgrade the power supply in the valley,” the official said.
Similarly, Delina grid stations have to be augmented to cater to north Kashmir.
The PDD also has to complete a power grid station the foundation of which was laid ten years ago in Bandipora.
The transmission line supposed to feed that grid is incomplete and prevents the supply of reliable power to households in that region.
“If the department gets these projects done by next year, then it can focus on future and prevent Kashmir from facing another power crisis,” the official said.
The official said that existing transformers and power lines are also in bad shape. “There are technical snags in electricity due to poor power infrastructure,” the official added.
Chief Engineer PDD, Hashmat Qazi, admitted there was a lack of infrastructure.“Government is working on it,” the Chief Engineer said.
He, however, said it was also responsibility of consumers to use electricity judiciously, so that people provided uninterrupted power supply.
JK’s liability swells
Srinagar, Jan 17: Similar to previous years, Jammu and Kashmir has accrued a liability of over Rs 7,000 crore in the ongoing fiscal even as experts blame state’s political leadership for not finding a solution to the issue.
Official documents of the finance department reveal that the state is running a liability of Rs 7,531 crore so far this fiscal, a figure close to the annual build-up J&K witnesses every year.
The total liabilities for the state have now swelled up to over Rs 68,000 crore.“The three fiscal parameters–revenue deficit, fiscal deficit and outstanding liability–indicate the extent of overall fiscal balance in the finances of the state government during the specified period. The nature of deficit is an indicator of the prudence of budgetary policy of the state government. Another useful measure of the deficit-base in a state’s fiscal policy is the State’s Own Deficit (SOD),” the documents reveal.
Noted economist, Professor Nisar Ali said the state’s expenditure and revenue system has been “mismanaged”.“The power purchase has been an important factor for swelling liabilities. The GST has further increased the mismanagement between expenditure and tax revenue,” he said.
Prof Ali also blamed J&K’s political leadership for increasing liabilities.“The annual liabilities increase due to power purchases despite the state having huge hydro resources. The state’s leadership has failed to fight for the return of power projects.
“It also depends upon the government of India how it wants to find a solution to this problem,” he added.
Endorsing Prof Ali’s views, a senior official of the finance department said that little or no use of revenue generation avenues, increasing power purchases and bulging expenditure on salaries are the main contributors to the escalating liabilities of the state.“There is a steep rise in salary and pension bills, power deficit, rising interest liabilities, loan repayments, and deficit on account of non-tax revenue,” the official said.
Conducive atmosphere inevitable for dialogue: Farooq
Srinagar, Jan 17: Former Chief Minister and National Conference (NC) president, Dr Farooq Abdullah on Thursday said that the favourable atmosphere is inevitable for dialogue, which is the only way out to settle the issues.
Addressing party workers in Jammu, Dr Farooq said that the dialogue is the only way out to resolve the issues but there is a need of conducive atmosphere which is inevitable. He added that “under the shades of gun, no dialogue process is possible. We have to stop bullet culture for lasting peace in the region.”
“NC has also given priority to the people. When I became Chief Minister in 1996, I fought with many things as the school were shut, no bridge was there, no office was functioning as the people were frightened by the turmoil then, but I stood up to fight against the forces who were inimical to peace.”
About 35 percent reservation in other states, Dr Farooq said that the incumbent Chief Minister of Odissa, Naveen Patnayak has written to him, suggesting there should be reservation of 35 percentfor women in Jammu and Kashmir also. “We will implement the law, which will ensure 35 percent reservation to women in the State once getting into the power,” he said.
However, he said that it is not easy to take such decisions as when his government took a decision to make 50 percent reservation for girls in Medical College then some people knocked the door of Supreme Court to put halt over the decision.
Dr Farooq also appealed the party workers to work hard and ensure the win of NC leaders who will be contesting the elections.
Abundant snowfall in January makes Gulmarg the perfect winter-destination for tourists
Srinagar, Jan 17: Unlike last January, the abundant snowfall so far this month has attracted a lot of tourists to Gulmarg as the destination is brimming with over 90 per cent occupancy these days.
The valley has received at least four moderate to heavy snowfalls this year with an even stronger wet spell predicted from January 19 to 23.
Tourists from across the world are cherishing this and making their way to Gulmarg, whose slopes offer a perfect destination for skiing.
Speaking to The Kashmir Monitor, CEO Gulmarg Development Authority, Syed Hanief Balkhi said that most of the hotels are fully occupied as people are heading to Gulmarg to enjoy the charismatic scenery offered by the snow-covered hills.“Gulmarg is under 4-5 feet snow and is looking like a playground these days. Tourists from India and abroad enjoy skiing, snow cycling, ice skating, snow-sculptor activity, sledge-racing and other games here,” he said.
Apart from the hoteliers, the rush of the tourists, Balkhi said, has provided good workdays for sledge keepers, skating guides, local cab drivers and many others associated with tourism.
In 2018, as per the official figures, Gulmarg received 5.76 lakh tourists as compared to 5.69 lakh in the preceding year.
The tourism players also expressed satisfaction over the rush of tourists heading to the valley.
President Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation, Wahid Malik said that snowfalls have pushed up the number of tourists visiting the valley.
“Gulmarg saw lesser arrival when winters begun, however, now the snow has ensured all the hotels and resorts are booked,” he said adding that Gulmarg hotels are running on 90 per cent occupancy so far this season.
Gulmarg is declared the ‘heartland of winter sports in India’ by the Winter Games Federation. This year too, Gulmarg Tourism Authority is going to organise winter sports carnival starting from the first week of February.
Additional Director Tourism Department, Nasir Khan said that Gulmarg is “rocking these days as it has received 34,712 and 35,022 tourists in the month of November and December”.
“We are going to organize the winter carnival from the next month to make the place more attractive,” he said.
He added that night market and cultural shows will also be arranged by the department.