The State Government has spent Rs 12,000 crores on power purchases and liquidating past liabilities, which have been accumulated on account of power during the current financial year of 2016-17, Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu said in the separate power budget presented by him in the Legislative Assembly today.
Minister of State for Finance and Planning Ajay Nanda presented general budget and power budget in the Legislative Council.
“Power sector is the single biggest item of expenditure, both in investment as well as current spending,” Drabu said.
Admitting that despite this high level of public spending, the power situation on the ground (Kashmir in winters and Jammu in summers) hasn’t improved, the Finance Minister quipped: “all the money seems like water off a duck back”.
Drabu said the power deficit in financial terms is a little more than Rs 2500 crores after adjusting subsidy element and reasonable Transmission and Distribution losses. “If this deficit is taken care of, we would have no budgetary deficit”.
He kept Rs 100 crore in the budget for 2017-18 for ‘energy efficiency initiatives’.
He revealed that out of 23 lakh households in Jammu and Kashmir, three lakh have still not been electrified.
“As national average for electricity consumption per household is 3 units per day, Jammu and Kashmir should be buying 3200 MUs to provide electricity to its 20 lakh households. But, we buy 6400 MUs for the household segment at an average consumption of 6 units per household after accounting for T&D losses of 30 per cent,” the Finance Minister said, adding this is one of the highest in the country even if compared with the hilly States.
“The problem is not with buying less power. In fact, we are buying more than the average household uses in the country. The problem is in supplying and consuming it,” he asserted and said: “the only solution is investment in Transmission and Distribution infrastructure, which we have made provision for but it will take time”.
The Finance Minister lamented that vast majority of users don’t pay electricity bills at all or in line with their consumption.
“At the same time, we promptly pay our telephone, mobile, internet and cable TV bills without bothering for the rate as threat of immediate disconnection is there. We use power indiscriminately for cooking and heating, treating it as a right and free resource,” he said and asked: “is this sustainable in the long run”?
Drabu said the Government has laid down a 24×7 `Power for All’ roadmap, which is a joint initiative of the Government of India and the State Government aimed at achieving round-the-clock availability of reliable and quality power to all households, industrial, commercial and all other electricity consuming entities by the end of Financial year 2019.
He disclosed that 100 per cent feeders of the State have been metered.
“The PDD had finalized a fast-track metering plan for 100 per cent consumer metering in the next 18 months including smart metering for high end domestic, commercial and industrial consumers, which would be rolled out soon,” he said and kept a provision of Rs 200 crores in the budget for 2017-18 towards compliant metering in the State.
He also kept a provision of Rs 2 crore in the budget for 2017-18 for training needs and Human Resource Development of the Power Development Department.
Drabu said the Government is working out a comprehensive policy for all casual/need based workers across various Departments especially the PDD in view of their job related risks as they have been rendering assiduous service and support to the Department.