The economy of the entire Middle East, high Human Development Indices (HDI) and prosperity enjoyed by countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE, Kuwait, can all be attributed to the presence and extraction of the precious natural resource – oil.
According to UN’s recent Development Programme's Human Development Report, India ranked at 130 with Human development Index of 0.640 and Pakistan ranked at 150 with Human development Index of 0.562 have been put under the category of Medium Human Development whereas the countries mentioned above come under Very High Human Development (with the exception of Iran). United Arab Emirates with HDI of 0.863 is ranked 34, Saudi Arabia with HDI 0.853 is ranked 39, Kuwait with HDI 0.803
is ranked 56, while as Iran with HDI 0.798 is ranked 60.
The oil-rich Gulf countries with high HDI’s means that they are frontrunners in the global race of development. Having all the capabilities to extract the precious black gold besides an established global trade network, these countries are paragons for the Muslim world in terms of wealth and economic status.
In our state, Jammu and Kashmir, we also have a precious natural resource in abundance in the form of water. But for decades proper utilization of this natural resource has been brushed off. Underutilized, and due to the myopic vision and nonchalance of the state’s leaders– we have become an energy-starved state instead of energy-rich state.
Projections announced recently and the news about hike in power tariffs does worry a common Kashmiri, but the voices and concerns never leave trivial matters and go digging deep, which apparently would completely change their own understanding about their shrinking world.
People of J&K inherit an incredible wealth in the form of water resources. Besides the primary use of fresh water for human consumption, the state has always been in a position to boost its economy exponentially by generating and selling power. As per state Power Development Corporation (JKSPDCL) the potential of 20,000 MW is not a figure to be taken lightly. Kashmiri has always been sitting on a gold mine, but with the irony that both India and Pakistan are now fighting to get their hands on this fortune, whereas Kashmiri is still lamenting about increasing tariffs.
Perhaps a commoner never finds answers to the four most important questions – How much worth are we producing? How much worth are we selling? Who controls and claims to be the owner? Who benefits most?
It was during the NC-Congress government that both power projects and power production received the maximum attention. As a dynamic leader then, former chief minister Omar Abdullah also shared his vision of enriching the state with the production of more power in the state. On many occasions Omar Abdullah reiterated that generation of power is key to economic growth.
With the State Hydel Policy wooing private investors, new projects that were granted green signal and even Certified Emission Reduction (CER) credits being considered, the hapless Kashmiri never saw an end of his woes, particularly in every winter that has come since then. Forget about the state becoming rich or human development index improving, the state has failed to meet its own demand. The consumption has increased and each year the government keeps on buying some part of the power that is produced at the mega power projects here only.
An insult to the injury is when the state’s power department bosses tell the people that the bad times will be over with small-time distribution grids. When the mega projects couldn’t come to the rescue of the people, how can a small distribution grid be of any help to the people?
It is a collective shame that in dozens of villages in Kashmir people still are using candles, oil lamps and other alternatives. Electric bulbs were invented by Edison about 140 years ago, and here we are without lights dreaming about the precious resource.
It is also a shame that in some of the recent international confrontation between India and Pakistan on Kashmir’s waters, the state government has not even been in the picture. With the present trend of giving a freehand to national players and IPPs, the state government would without any doubt succeed in generating revenue, which in turn may be bragged as an indicator of government’s efficacy, but how is a commoner benefiting.
With so many projects coming up and the very wealth of the state subjects marking an incline by selling their precious inherited resource, shouldn’t the power tariffs be on the lower side?
Consider the oil analogy of the gulf countries – in Saudi Arabia the 2019 price per liter of petrol has been about half a dollar (US) or Rs 35, in Iran about Rs 20, UAE around Rs 35 and Kuwait around Rs 34. It is cheap because it is their natural resource, their product. Now what is the cost of electricity generated by the hydropower projects here compared to the cost of units in other states? That’s the surprise and for once people of Kashmir must start digging and ask the government tough questions.
There will be no indigenous development in the state until our best product fetches the right money to the state than anyone else. By buying political leaders and bureaucrats, the central government cannot expect to keep on exploiting the people of this state forever.