Politics and its forgotten promises
Northern India including Delhi has not yet forgotten the suffering and pain of the last summer that
happened due to power as well as water shortage, both being inter-connected. The entire Northern India had witnessed so called grid failure due to over draw of electricity by the Government of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi and Uttarakhand. As if it was not enough, centre slapped a penalty of 61.26 crore rupees on Uttarakhand as a penalty for overdrawing electricity. Uttarakhand is already reeling under power and finance shortage. Instead of lasting solutions of increasing and restarting the stalled hydro project, Power Minister in UPA-II cabinet, S K Shinde suggested all the state governments to increase electricity rate every six months shifting the brunt on the poor citizens.
All of us are shocked that instead of suggesting improvements in the power supply and production the government is harassing the poor citizens. Both the central and state government have completely forgotten to fulfill their mission to provide electricity to each household by the year 2012.
Same is in the case of the BJP government, Palamaneri (480 MW) and Bhairoghati (381 MW) hydro power projects fully owned by state government were stalled by the then chief minister of Uttarakhand General B C Khanduri. Similarly, is the case of the Loharinag Pala (600 MW) which is owned by central government, out of which minimum 13 per cent was royalty for Uttrakhand. All these three were only tunnel-based and run-off river type of projects. These projects were ready to generate electricity, so as to fulfill the mission of 2012.
North India is suffering energy crisis at a time when Uttarakhand alone has the potential of generating 37,000 MW of power from hydro projects alone. Presently Uttrakhand is buying power from open market worth 1,500 crore per year which is also not sufficient as per demand. It is sad that the state could produce only 11,381 MW at present. The state, which had proper development of hilly regions as one of the main reasons for its creation, has to source power from other states to meet the power deficit.
A Group of Ministers (GoM) under the chairmanship of Pranab Mukherjee, the then finance minister, Minister for Power and Minister of State (I/C) for Environment and Forests in the meeting held on the 8 July 2010 considered the report of the high power committee constituted to examine the implications of discontinuing the Loharnag Pala hydro electric project. After detailed discussions, decision was taken – ‘In view of the fact that substantial work on the project has already been done and significant expenditure incurred, it was decided that this project may be allowed to continue’. If the decision could have been accepted by UPA-II production of Loharinag Pala alone was enough to fulfill the gap of demands of Delhi and Uttarakhand.
A bench of Justices H L Dattu and Rajan Gagoi said that, ‘the moment a power is to start, litigation gets filed in court’. Deprecating this practice the bench said, ‘if initially the project cost is 1,000 crore, it goes upto Rs 10,000 crore over and tax payer is wasted – we really wonder people in this country say we don’t want hydroelectric plant or nuclear power plant, but everybody wants bijli
(electricity) and dismissed the petition without granting liberty to the counsel to withdraw the appeal’.
Similarly, in the case of Alkananda Power project disposing Special Leave Petition (SLP) the Supreme
Court headed by Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice Dipak Misra ordered on 31 January 2012 that ‘we make it clear that the construction of the dam may go on without any hindrance however, during the interregnum period, public hearing by the Ministry of Environment and Forest as directed by the high court, shall remain stayed’. Sonia Gandhi also forgot her assurance given at the time of state election in Uttarkashi that ‘if Congress party wins and comes to power in Uttarakhand all hydropower projects will be restarted with immediate effect’.
Similarly, our then Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna assured people of Uttarkashi that ‘if he becomes a member of parliament he will not allow any hydropower projects to be stalled’. But it looks that he also proved helpless. As a chief minister he has made his views clear on the hydropower
projects without any result.