Says project can’t run without approval from state government
The controversy over the rights of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) to operate 240-MW Uri-II hydropower project in Baramulla district “without approval” from the State Government is getting bitter. In a veiled threat, senior Congress Minister Taj Mohi-ud-Din on Sunday said if State Government fails to act against the NHPC for “illegally operating” the project, people of Uri, the constituency he represents and where the project has been built up, would seek legal recourse to get justice. He said the Government should order for the closure of the project till the Corporation completes all formalities for running it.
“I will definitely make a mention of the issue in the next cabinet meeting,” said Taj. “People of Uri have the option to approach the Court in case the NHPC doesn’t abide by the law.”
On Friday when the project, located at Kalgi in Uri, was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Taj had raked up the controversy claiming that the NHPC which owns the project had not got the permission from the Government to operate it.
Explaining, Taj told Greater Kashmir though the Corporation has applied for the license for running the project the same has been denied to it for failing to meet certain requirements.
During his stint as PHE & Irrigation Minister Taj had brought the J&K State Water Resources Regulatory Act under which the power generating companies are charged for exploiting State’s water resources for power generation. Besides, the companies are bound by the law to complete the required formalities under the Act for operating the project with the State Water Resources Regulatory Authority, constituted under the law, before it is granted license by the Government to run the project.
Taj said as per the Act it is mandatory on the NHPC to provide fixed ratio of employment to youth living within 5 Km radius of the project, provide regular power supply to the local population and take measures for conservation of the environment.
“The NHPC has failed to meet the requirements and that is the reason for denial of license to it,” Taj said. “Nobody is above law. If NHPC has failed to abide by the law then Government should take necessary action which even includes ordering to close the project.”
Chairman SWRRA SS Kapur said it is the State Irrigation Department not the Authority which issues the license.
Commissioner/Secretary Irrigation Department Pawan Kotwal said he would have to check up the details regarding the issue before he can comment on it.
Regional Director NHPC didn’t respond to repeated calls from Greater Kashmir to seek his comments over the issue.
Uri has in the past witnessed massive protests against power shortage. In 2012 a class 12th student was killed when Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel guarding 480-MW Uri-I power project, also owned by the Corporation, opened fire on the protestors in Boniyar who were demanding regular power supply.
The Uri-II power project, built at a cost of Rs 1724 crore, is located downstream of the Uri-I project and is estimated to generate 1123.76 MUs of energy annually.
J&K gets 12 percent of power as royalty from all the seven NHPC projects generating over 2000-MW in the State.
The Corporation has turned down the repeated demands by the State Government to increase the royalty to 25 percent.
Taj in the capacity of the Irrigation Minister had taken NHPC head on for “wanton exploitation” of the State water resources and had sought re-negotiation with the Corporation on the power projects owned by them in the State for their return to J&K. In 2011 he compared the NHPC with the “East India Company which was draining the state’s power potential”.
All power projects unconstitutional: KCDS
Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS) reiterates its stand that NHPC’s control and ownership of all the power projects in the state is illegal and unconstitutional.
Reacting to the statement of a sitting Congress Minister Taj Mohi ud Din that Uri-II power project inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi on last Friday was illegal as NHPC does not possess a licence to operate from the state government under the State Water Resources Act-2010, KCSDS states that no such licence has been obtained by the company for other projects as well like that of 120 MW Sewa -II, 45 MW Nimo Bazgo, 44 MW Chutuk and upcoming 330 MW Kishen Ganga making all these projects equally illegal.
Besides obtaining a licence under State Water Resources Act, it is also mandatory for all power projects to obtain a licence under J&K State Electricity Act which has also not been obtained by NHPC for any of its new as well as old projects including 690 MW Salal, 480 MW Uri-I and 390 MW Dul Hasti making all the seven projects and up-coming eighth project (Kishen Ganga) illegal.
The five new projects completed or under construction by NHPC are part of 7 power projects which were handed over to them by the state government in year 2000 on BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer) basis. The MOU signed mentions that the time period after which these projects are returned to the state would be decided later as per “mutually accepted methodology”, understandably any time before commissioning of these projects. However till date this has not been done which makes the very agreement between the state government and NHPC on these projects “inchoate”. It is immoral as well as illegal to start operation of any power project under an inchoate agreement.
Besides being illegal, the continued retention of power projects by NHPC is also unconstitutional as the land utilized for the power projects has not been transferred to them under due legal process. After the incorporation of part (d) to section 140 of the J&K Transfer of Property Act in 1979, there is a provision for transferring state land in the name of President of India on his requisition. The President in turn could have sublet it to NHPC for execution, maintenance and subsequently transfer of power projects back to the state after certain time period. However such a process is conspicuous by its absence in any of the power projects run by NHPC in the state and in absence of a valid land deal in President’s name all projects constructed by NHPC are “illegal and unconstitutional.
The onus of illegal and unconstitutional retention of power projects and their illegal operation by NHPC squarely lies on the state government and could very well be termed as “dereliction of duty” by the government towards protecting the public assets. KCSDS also dismisses with disdain the minister’s assertion that Modi would not have inaugurated the power project had he known its illegal status. It is a known fact that GOI and its functionaries put aside all legalities and ethical standards when it comes to implementing their sinister agendas in Kashmir.
In light of these facts KCSDS impresses upon the state government to immediately take back possession of all the power projects from NHPC and hand them over to J&K SPDC for general good of the public.