Electricity bills will double in J&K if discoms privatised:Read How much


Srinagar: The Government of India (GoI) has begun the process of privatising power distribution in Jammu and Kashmir, a move aimed at reducing the government’s spending but which will make electricity twice as costly for the consumer.

Two chief engineers of the J&K power department, who have served for two decades in various capacities, told Kashmir Reader that the tariff is undoubtedly going to be at least twice the current rate after privatisation.

By the current electricity tariff, a household on average pays between Rs 2-Rs 3 a unit while commercial and industrial consumers pay slightly more than Rs 3. The actual cost of a unit is more than Rs 5. The gap is balanced by the government’s subsidy, which runs into hundreds of crores.

At present, the government in Jammu and Kashmir spends about Rs 3,000 crore each year on purchase, transmission, and distribution of power to households. Out of the total cost of Rs 5,000 crore incurred on these heads, the government recovers about Rs 2,000 crore from consumers.

“For the poor it will be a disaster,” said one of the chief engineers of the power department, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The private company will have to recover the money it spends on power supply. It will do so by hiking rates, which will be at least double or triple than the current ones. Most of the people won’t be able to pay them.”

In Jammu and Kashmir, more than 10 percent of the population lives in less than Rs 27,000 annual income, as per a Reserve Bank of India report. This means an income of just over Rs 2,000 a month. There are scores of labourers, unemployed, private employees, and businessmen who are currently in dire straits due to repeated lockdowns in Kashmir.

Recently, 30 trade organisations held a joint press conference to appeal to the government for help.

According to the JK Power Engineers and Employees Coordination Committee, an association formed to resist privatisation, the government’s move is “anti farmer and anti-consumer.”

“After privatisation, farmers as well as domestic consumers will have to pay much higher tariff as compared to the existing one,” it said in a statement.

The anti-privatisation chorus has started after Union Power Minister Raj Kumar Singh said that India will privatise electricity distribution companies (discoms) in all eight union territories on open, transparent, competitive, commercial principles. The relevant Bill has been moved in Parliament, and 21 days earmarked for seeking public opinion.

People in JK have been resisting for more than a decade now the power department’s attempts to install meters in households. Most areas in J&K are still “unmetered”, as the official designation goes.

“The government can still reduce its losses by improving infrastructure. It will prevent a situation that will agitate the people,” a power department engineer said.

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The government will also face tough opposition from the power department employees who fear that they may lose their perks, including pension. (KR)

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