Eight yrs not sufficient period for PDD to frame vital policy

Senior officers un-aware of  status of draft prepared last year

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Jan 27: Unbelievable it may sound but it is a fact that eight years is not sufficient period for those at the helm of affairs in the Power Development Depart-ment to frame a policy which otherwise is imperative for financial turnaround and commercial viability of electricity sector besides to protect the interests of all the categories of the consumers across Jammu and Kashmir. The most shocking aspect is that senior officers of the department are completely unaware of the status of the draft which was prepared last year albeit after sharp criticism from different quarters.
On April 28, 2010, the Government notified the Jammu and Kashmir Electricity Act following its enactment by the Legislature and approval by the Governor. As per the provisions of the Act, the Power Development Department is supposed to formulate Electricity Policy and Plan for the development of power system based on optimal utilization of resources.
The Section 3(2) of the Act states that Government shall publish the State Electricity Policy from time to time, review or revise the policy in accordance with the National Electricity Policy and also prepare the State Electricity Plan in accordance with the State Electricity Policy and notify such plan once in five years.
However, despite lapse of eight years the Power Development Department has failed to frame the Electricity Policy as such flouting the law with impunity, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
After much criticism from different quarters the Power Development Department finally set into motion the process to frame the Electricity Policy early last year and in compliance to Section 3 of the J&K Electricity Act, 2010, draft of the policy was prepared. The draft was then placed on the website of the Development Commissioner Power J&K for seeking comments and suggestions from various stake holders.
Even good number of comments and suggestions were received and accordingly incorporated in the draft policy. Finally, the draft was submitted to the Government for approval and notification. However, no further step was initiated by the Administrative Department as a result of which policy could not be finalized despite lapse of eight years, sources said.
The non-seriousness in getting the Electricity Policy finalized is notwithstanding the fact that in the Economic Survey        2017, which was tabled in the Legislature recently, the Government admits that policy will be of immense help in ensuring access to electricity, overcoming shortage during peak hours, supplying of reliable and quality power of specified standards in an efficient manner and at reasonable rates, for financial turnaround and commercial viability of electricity sector, protection of consumer interests, disaster management, safety and maintenance of infrastructure.
Shockingly, a number of officers of the Power Development Department when contacted by EXCELSIOR expressed ignorance about the fate of the draft Electricity Policy and the common reply was: “We don’t know where the draft of the policy is presently lying”.  Even Development Commissioner Power Asgar Ali expressed ignorance about the status of the draft Electricity Policy.
“A lengthy procedure is required to be followed for finalizing any policy. The draft has to go to Administrative and Law Departments…..then it is to be placed before the Minister of State. Finally the draft is required to be cleared at the level of Cabinet Minister. Even sometimes the important policy is required to be approved by the Cabinet”, he said, adding “I will have to check at which of these levels the draft of the Electricity Policy is pending”.
According to the sources, J&K State Electricity Regulatory Commission (JKSERC) had also a number of times asked the Power Development Department to shun non-serious approach towards formulating Electricity Policy and ensure strict compliance to the provisions in this regard under J&K Electricity Act, 2010. “It seems that there is no seriousness at any level in the Power Development Department otherwise there is no justification behind delay of 8 years in formulating a vital policy”, they remarked.
“It is a matter of serious concern that a policy, which is required to be revised after every five years, has not been prepared during the past eight years”, sources regretted.
Despite repeated attempts Commissioner Secretary, Power Development Department Hirdesh Kumar could not be contacted for his comments on the grave issue.