Communication blackout continues

09/10/2019

Kashmir has been facing communications blackout for the past 65 days with virtually no mobile phone and internet services, but many residents in the Valley have alleging that they received bills by telecom companies for services that were not provided. The telecom companies have billed the subscribers for the period of communication blockade which began on August 5 when the Centre abrogated provisions of Article 370 and split Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. The prolonged communication blockade is also preventing Jammu and Kashmir State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) from proceeding on the power tariff petition filed by the Power Development Department. Due to this, there are grim chances of revision in tariff for the third consecutive year although State is still struggling to generate enough funds for timely clearance of power purchase bills. The revision in power tariff was last made in the year 2016-17 and thereafter no such exercise could be carried out as the State Electricity Regulatory Commission remained defunct for quite long time. The Commission became functional few months back after Governor’s Administration appointed new Chairperson and two Members as per the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir State Electricity Regulatory Commission Act, 2000. Due to snapping of internet services the Commission is not in a position to put the petition in the public domain for inviting objections and suggestions.
No doubt such an exercise can be conducted in Jammu region where people can make use of broadband service to comment and make suggestions on the power tariff revision petition but keeping people of entire Kashmir valley out of this exercise would be highly unjustified. It is only because of communication clampdown that Commission has even not posted Power Development Department’s tariff revision petition on its website as that would be an exercise in futility and it would be only after receiving comments and suggestions that the Commission can initiate the step of holding public hearings and then convening meeting of the Advisory Committee to take the tariff revision petition to the logical conclusion. The State is unlikely to see immediate increase in revenue to meet the expenditure on purchase of power and for timely clearance of bills. Early this year country’s largest power generator NTPC had warned to regulate power supply to Jammu and Kashmir for not clearing Rs 1985 crore dues. NTPC has been supplying around 940 Mega Watts of power to the State from various power stations.

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