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Protest over privatization of Electricity projects

SRINAGAR, 20 July 2020, TON: When Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that electricity distribution companies in Union Territories (UTs) will be privatized, no one had an idea that disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir would be hit too. Kashmiri leadership including Syed Ali Geelani and other top leadership of All Parties Hurryiat Conference (APHC) strongly protested Indian interference in the ibnternal affairs of Jammu and Kashmir. They warned that if the decision is not taken back Kashmiris would come to the streets against Indianhanding over of the projects to private companies of India, US, Israel and Iran.

The Jammu and Kashmir Electricity Act 2003 provided state must have a State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) but after the 5 August 2019 announcement of amalgamation of Jammu and Kashmir State as Indian Union Territory, the Indian leadership is up to privatize the power sector. This privatization of power distribution companies (Discoms) in the Union Territories is being carried out under the Aatam Nirbhar Bharat. Article 85 of the Jammu and Kashmir Re-Organisation Act, 2019 provides that the Centre may establish Advisory Committees for apportionment of assets, rights, and liabilities of the companies and corporations s relating to the continuance of arrangements in regard to generation and supply of electric power and supply of water.

The J&K Power Development Department (JKPDD) handles transmission and distribution of electric power in the state, power generation is looked after by J&K State Power Development Corporation Limited (JKSPDC), commercial aspects of power purchase are handled by J&K State Power Trading Company (JKSPTC) while J&K State Power Development Corporation Limited (JKSPDCL) is a power generating utility having 21 hydro projects across J&K. Their territorial jurisdiction comprises of entire Jammu and Kashmir State.
The government is currently spending about Rs 21 crore per day on power purchases from power corporations to meet the power demand in Jammu and Kashmir. NHPC gives 12% free power
as royalty to Jammu and Kashmir since the hydro resources of the state are utilized for power generation. In addition, Jammu and Kashmir has a share of 25% in 600 MW Ranjit Sagar Dam project and the power is supplied at the generation cost.  

The estimated hydropower potential of Jammu and Kashmir is 20,000 Megawatts (MW), of which about 16475 MW have been identified out of which only 3263 MW has been exploited. This comprises of 1211.96 MW in the state sector, 2009 MW in the central sector and 42.5 MW in the private sector. Similarly, 168 MW Shahpur Kandi project on Ravi is another joint sector hydro project with Punjab where Jammu and Kashmir has 25% share.

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