There should be no surprise in hearing opposing voices to demands from Kashmir Civil Society & general public for return of Hydro power projects particularly after Mehbooba Mufti was made to assume reins of power by New-Delhi empty handed. Though the return of two power projects was listed on the original ‘agenda of Alliance’ between PDP-BJP, yet the Union Power Minster had the gumption to renege on the commitment lock, stock & barrel. On the fore-front of these opposants or thwarters are the people whose links with the establishment are too obvious to be ignored.
Let us put the issue in perspective bluntly without mincing words. Every occupation has four facets or dimensions-Military, Political, Culture & economic. The control of power projects by India through its corporate arm National Hydel Power Corporation (NHPC) falls under the last facet of occupation.
Let us also admit that occupying powers, world over, since times immemorial, have plundered & looted the natural resources of occupied people. To perpetuate the occupation, they need various species of people like collaborators, handlers, henchmen & pardners. That Corporates play a special role in occupying State resources is also well too known & documented. East India Company is one such corporate creature which entered Indian shores with the sole purpose of trade & commerce but ended up with occupying vast Indian resources including land, which generally is the first target in such covert operations. Post 1857 developments, power was transferred from this company to crown. This company was also bestowed with the title of “Bhadur”(Brave) which normally should be the sole prerogative of an individual with breath, bones & flesh.
Another instance is of United Fruit company (again a corporate) OF USA. In 1950 this company acquired & ran the whole of Guatemala as a private concern, owning the public infrastructure, including ports, railways, communications and banks. United Fruit owned 550,000 acres of Guatemalan land, some 85% of which was deliberately left permanently idle to keep prices high. That year Guatemala elected a reformist government which legalized trade unions and nationalized, with an offer of compensation, 400,000 acres of land held by the United Fruit Company. The US sponsored a coup which overthrew the local government and installed a pro-US dictator.
Israel exploited vast quarrying resources of its occupied territory West bank and went a step further. Its Supreme Court rejected a petition brought by an Israeli human rights organisation against the quarrying of stone by Israeli companies in the West Bank. The petitioner claimed that the quarrying was illegal under international law because it exploited the natural resources of the occupied territory for the benefit of the occupying power. The Court ruled that international law must be adapted to the "reality on the ground" of long-term occupation. Hence its companies are entitled to exploit the West Bank’s natural resources for economic gain. India is following more or less, a Similar policy in Kashmir.
Coming to the merits of the issue, the thwarters contest it on two grounds. First- That these projects are not cash cows as perceived and hence not going to fatten coffers of the occupied State and second that the occupied people lack the technical competence to run these projects efficiently.
Before commenting on these grounds, it is in order to have a look how various occupiers have justified such issues in the past.
Britishers always invoked the theory of ‘Division of labor’ to justify plunder of resources of their colonies. According to this doctrine, it is cost effective to process & convert the raw materials produced in their colonies into finished products in Great Britain and sell them back to the colonial people post conversion. For colonial people it was beneficial & economical to grow potatoes.
Israel never cared for opinion of others on the issue. They have been brazen & aggressive in looting the resources of its victims thinking it their divine right.
America has been more wily & diplomatic in this regard. They would give the victims ten reasons like technical know-how, availability of finances, providing its collaborators the much needed security etc. etc. to justify the control over their resources. More often than not, they would also convince the occupied about the necessacity of control in the interests global peace.
Now a word on the grounds taken by thwarters.
Whether these power projects are cash cows or not, has recently been settled through an RTI query and the astronomical amounts, NHPC is earning out of these projects should be an eye-opener for one & all.
As far the technical competence of our Engineers is concerned, they are undeniably, the best provided they are given a congenial atmosphere of working. Let us remember that they are the ones who operated our earlier power projects, though of lesser capacities. For argument sake, even if it is taken that they lack necessary expertise in handling the modern technologically advanced projects, the remedy is not to ignore or bye-pass them but to allow them to hone their skills through continuous professional education programmes & advance trainings. After all, if our police is not well equipped in crowd control measures, we don’t outsource these operations to Delhi Police.
And finally Dudes- the issue is not as much about money or competence but the pride of possession which these power projects are going to give us, if returned.
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. Feed back at firstname.lastname@example.org)