by Amanjeet Singh, Authint Mail
India’s new economic policies on Kashmir indicate that hard days may be ahead for people of the cash starved region.
Departing from its earlier stance, Narendra Modi’s BJP led government at the Centre has embarked on blocking schemes and subsidies which could have eased the sufferings of the state that was hit by a devastating flood in September last year.
Kashmir is reeling under darkness which causes immense sufferings, especially in winter when people are dependent on electricity to fight the biting chill.
However, while the urban areas are provided with 10-12 hours of power supply per day, the condition is even worse in rural areas.
The state faced the first disappointment in Delhi when the Centre turned down the request of funds by the state government for developing electricity infrastructure in the trouble-torn state.
Under Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Programme launched by former prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh in 2004, this year required additional funds to trim distribution and transmission loss.
A sum of INR 124 million was required and after lengthy discussion between officials of the state and central government, the state failed to get the additional assistance.
Kashmir is gifted with water resources to generate electricity, but the maximum share of electricity generated is transmitted to other parts of India in accordance with the pacts signed by the state and central governments. Omar Abdullah-led coalition government had pitched hard for returning of power projects to the state, but he failed to make a breakthrough.
The Power Development Department in Kashmir has been urging people to use electricity judiciously. While the load has spiked to over 1500 MW, the department is only able to provide 1100 MW and it has also accused the people of electricity theft.
Another disappointment for the people came on the New Year eve when the federal petroleum ministry reduced the quota of kerosene oil supplied to Kashmir. As per previous decision, every household used to get 4.48 litres of kerosene from the allocated 4.8 million litres per month to the state. However, under the new quota, a household will only get 3 litres per month.
The people of the state are dependent on kerosene for lighting up stoves and wood-powered chimneys extensively used in winter when the region is cut off from mainland India due to snow. The region is already facing shortage of kerosene with only 33 percent of the required amount being supplied. Being one of the major sources of heating and cooking in the state in tough winter conditions, this unprecedented move by the government of India will create more anger as their sufferings will grow.
The Modi-led government also waived off subsidy on transportation of wheat from the base camp in Jammu to Srinagar, creating difference in wheat prices between two regions of the same state. As subsidy was cut, wheat prices saw a hike of INR 200 in Kashmir with people forced to bear the additional cost which by previously born by federal government.
The proverbial nail in the coffin came when the Centre withheld the financial assistance of INR 440,000 million to rebuild the flood ravaged Kashmir. A proposal which was sent from by the state government to the Centre couldn’t made any headway even after four months since the flood hit the region.
While Modi has been making big promises in his speeches on developing Kashmir, but the reality on ground shows that his government has become indifferent to the needs of the people. In his speeches, he regularly talks of uplifting the economically deprived people, but these new decisions show that his promises are all talk and no meat.