How Union power minister Piyush Goyal and his team humiliated the people of Jammu and Kashmir

Posted: June 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

The silence and the lies

Hakim Iqbal Abdulla

The silence and the liesFile PhotoOn 16-06-15, Greater Kashmir carried a cover story regarding what transpired in a meeting between the union power minister-Piyush Goyal, NHPC management and the senior officials from the state government which included the state power minister, other cabinet ministers and senior bureaucracy at the state level.

Though it is not the first time when state agencies use great rhetoric while addressing the masses in Jammu and Kashmir and lack guts while speaking in front of the union ministers, that meeting must come as one of the greatest disappointment for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Not only because of the silence of the officers in front of union power minister but mainly because of the language used by the union minister and NHPC officials. As quoted by this newspaper, the two, Piyush Goyal and NHPC official, humiliated the state administration by using a language which indicated as if the people of J&K are beggars.

I wonder why did all officers remain silent over what was being told and not object to the humiliation. Let us now get to the specific points.

First, as quoted by this paper the union power minister said, “They (NHPC) have projects all over the country. If you want to change rules of the game, why will they invest here? It doesn’t make any sense (to talk of) securing share in the NHPC profits and revision of royalty agreements”. The statement is a lie as NHPC has projects only in a few states and the fact is that NHPC generates half of its power from this state. The rules of the game were framed much earlier (When J&K signed agreements with NHPC) and the same rules have been trampled upon by NHPC by not honoring any agreements it signed with the state of Jammu and Kashmir. We don’t beg NHPC to invest here. They come here, make money and on top of it they humiliate the state government and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. If it doesn’t make sense in asking for share in profits then honor the commitments which you have made with the state. As per the agreements, NHPC is illegally occupying projects in the state at the behest of central government.

Second, the paper quotes Piyush Goyal saying that, “If I was in your shoes I would look for possibilities to explore 10000-MW hydropower energy without bothering who is setting up the projects. The State will then get roughly 1200 MW free power out of 10000 MW which means power worth Rs 2500 crore annually… I think (State) needs to change its mindset and think positively. My suggestion to you will be to explore ways for tapping 10000-MW energy and getting 1200 MW free power”. J&K government has been asking for this since long and it’s only the union ministry which is a big hurdle in its development. We often ask for floating of international tenders for various projects which we shall construct on our own terms but the union government has always acted as a barrier and never as a facilitator. Why would we not bother who is setting up the projects? Should we want another NHPC who will loot our resources and pay us nothing? Should we not bother about ethics of the company who we engage with? Mr Goyal please weigh your words. And yes Mr Goyal, how do you address us? Do you think we only think of free power or are you willingly misleading our gullible people who unfortunately sit on the so called prestigious chairs? Free power of 12% is a policy followed throughout India and is no special case for J&K. This is essentially because hydro power involves large scale displacement and playing with fragile ecosystem. So while we get 12% free power, we pay for the same indirectly through large scale ecosystem changes and migration of people and other such rehabilitation and resettlement issues.

Third, the union power minister said, “You have to go by the rules of the game otherwise no banker will come to invest in J&K because there will be no guarantee (provided by Government of India).” What rules does the minister talk about? Is demanding one’s legitimate right against the rule of the game. If it is so, then it is the game of the union minister in which people of J&K are only spectators and no active participants. In fact people of J&K have always been spectators in the game or even when they were invited to play, the match was already fixed in favor of the union government. The banks only see profits and current business scenarios. The largest bank of the state which has maximum depositors from J&K lends more money outside J&K then in the state because it sees better opportunities there. Mr Goyal, allow us the freedom to frame our own rules for the game and then meet us in the ground where real competition would happen unlike the fixed ones which have been a norm. We promise you it will be a tough game for you then because rules would be fair and the game would be played with justice.

Fourth, seeing the attitude of power minister the NHPC official too sprung up in action. The meek officers from state government were defenceless for reasons better known to them. The NHPC official is quoted as having said that, “State was getting 1200 million units (MUs) of free energy from NHPC-owned projects in the form of royalty and the Corporation was paying water charges of Rs 600 crores annually to the State against tapping of water resources for energy generation. They are getting 50 percent share from total profits earned by NHPC”. As per the law made by the union government itself, any company setting up a hydro plant in any state is bound to give 12% royalty to home state for reasons quoted above. So, NHPC is not doing us a favour by giving us 1200 MUs. The second point made is again a distortion of facts and is misleading. The water charges, here 600 Cr, are paid to the state government but the same charges are recovered from the customers. Here the biggest customer is the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is like giving money to the state for a few days and recovering it back completely. I wonder why nobody objected to such concoction of facts.

Fifth, regarding the transfer of Uri and DulHasti power projects to the state the Union Minister is quoted to have said, “It is too much of an inter-ministerial issue and this is not a proper platform to discuss it.” If it was really an inter-ministerial issue then how did the same minister make a statement in the union parliament earlier this year that the projects can’t be transferred because of legal and financial reasons?

People attending the meetings should prepare themselves well and know the subject that is being discussed. The officers should have the courage to speak in front of the minister.

(Hakim Iqbal Abdulla is a blogger currently based in Mumbai and works in power industry)


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