Majority of villages situated close to Pak, China borders clamoring for electricity

*Power in abundance but vast area remains un-electrified

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Feb 6: Contrary to the tall claims of the Union as well as State Governments about paying required attention towards holistic development of strategically important Ladakh region, majority of the border villages in Kargil and Leh districts have been clamoring for electricity although power is available in abundance particularly during summer months to meet the requirement of the entire populace.
The Nubra Assembly constituency in Leh district shares its borders with both China and Pakistan and is one of the most strategic spots of country’s Northern borders. However, as far as basic amenities of life particularly electricity is concerned, this area has failed to receive the due attention either from the previous dispensations in Jammu and Kashmir and Centre or from the present ruling parties.
This can be gauged from the fact that almost all the villages of Nubra Valley including those situated extremely on the borders with hostile neighbors have not been electrified till date despite floating of numerous schemes by the Union Government in this regard.
In the present era of modern technology, the villages of Nubra valley are still dependent upon the Diesel Generator (DG) sets to get electricity but only for three hours a day throughout the year. Even during winter months when the requirement of electricity is felt more because of extreme weather conditions the duration of power supply through DG sets is not enhanced by the Power Development Department.
While worrying scenario is prevailing on this side of Line of Control (LoC) and Line of Actual Control (LAC), Pakistan and China, the hostile neighbors, are leaving no stone unturned to provide better amenities of life to their population residing in the border areas as they understand that unless quality of life gets better the borders will not be safe.
Similar is the situation in numerous villages situated along the borders with Pakistan in Kargil district as tall claims about ensuring holistic development of the Ladakh region have remained confined to the official files only.
Quoting some examples, sources said that Batalik and Drass, which hogged the limelight during Kargil war of 1999, are getting power supply only for three hours a day from the DG sets despite the fact that both these areas are only 60 kilometers away from Chutuk Power Project, which is generating 44 Mega Watts of electricity during summer months.
Against generation of 44 Mega Watts of electricity, only 18 Mega Watts is being consumed because of the failure of the Power Development Department to lay transmission lines and establish other infrastructure to take electricity to all the un-electrified villages of Kargil district, sources informed, adding “it is a matter of serious concern that despite availability of electricity in abundance majority of the villages particularly in the border areas are still dependent upon the DG sets and getting power only for three-four hours a day”.
According to the sources, the scheme for electrification of un-electrified villages and system strengthening in Kargil was forwarded to the Government of India under Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) for an amount of Rs 80.61 crore. Initially, the Government of India sanctioned the scheme for an amount of Rs 42.43 crore and the balance for an amount of Rs 38.18 crore was sanctioned under Prime Minister Development Package (PMDP).
The e-tender under DDUGJY scheme was floated on partial turnkey basis for an amount of Rs 19.01 crore excluding the cost of key material to be supplied by the Government. But in spite of four times extension no response was obtained, sources said, adding due to poor response to tendering process DDUGJY works clubbed with PMDP are now proposed to be executed through PGCIL and once these works are completed the areas like Batalik, Drass and Namsuru will get power supply from Chutuk Power Station.
Similarly, no response was received for e-tenders floated for electrification of un-electrified villages in Nubra valley and it is stated that works are being allotted to the PGCIL, a Central Public Sector Undertaking, for execution.
“There was no need for floating e-tenders again and again keeping in view the fact that no private player would be ready to work in hostile terrain of Kargil and Nubra”, sources said, adding “soon after no response to first e-tender the Government should have approached PGCIL for execution of works especially in the light of the fact that PGCIL is already working in both the districts for laying of Srinagar-Leh Transmission Line and creation of connected paraphernalia”.
When contacted, MLA Kargil Asgar Ali Karbalai said, “earlier the Government of India had proposed electrification of un-electrified villages under Rajiv Gandhi Gram Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) and now much hype is being created over DDUGJY but the fact is that vast area of Kargil is dependent on DG sets to get power supply for three-four hours a day”.
“It is a matter of serious concern that even 70 years after the independence of the country we are clamoring for electricity, the basic amenity of life”, he regretted, adding “there was no justification behind floating tenders again and again. Either certain relaxations in conditions under DDUGJY should have been given so as to attract private players or PGCIL should have been approached much earlier”.
“I have apprehensions that DDUGJY will be able to electrify our villages in view of the non-serious approach of the State as well as Union Government towards Ladakh region”, he said.
Similarly, MLA Nubra Deldan Namgail said, “it seems that there is policy paralysis in the Power Development Department of the State Government otherwise PGCIL should have been the first and foremost choice for execution of works under DDUGJY”, adding “we don’t know how long we will have to wait for electrification of our villages”.