Transfer of Power Projects …the denial is as evident as evasion in conflict resolution

Delhi is as much in denial mood vis-à-vis transfer of power projects as it is in evasion of conflict resolution. Haseeb Drabu may claim that negotiations vis-à-vis transfer of hydroelectric power projects [HEP] are on, Delhi may nod assent. Negotiations however may not result in actual transfer. If contrary to run of events it does, I would love to be proved wrong, scores of others too. Negotiations in Delhi’s take may not mean—means to an end, but a handle to stall the means to an end, be it the transfer of power projects or conflict resolution. It could be a dialogue of deaf and dumb, form of diplomacy worked with perfection by establishment, Congress or BJP in command matters the least. 

Within days of Haseeb Drabu stating in legislature his take—imaginary or otherwise of power project return, MOS Power in Delhi, Piyush Goyal reportedly said—Power Ministry can’t transfer power projects owned by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) to Jammu and Kashmir citing “legal and financial problems”. It was related in written parliamentary reply to a query by PDP’s Tariq Hamid Kara. The stated GOI position remains in stark contrast to JK government claim of negotiating with New Delhi on transfer of two power projects—390 MW Dul-Hasti and 480 MW Uri I—from NHPC to the State.

Legal problems! The minister stopped short of spelling legal problems—whose law is it anyway? Provisions involved in Delhi’s distribution of northern grid, administrative provision working to undermine the legal undertaking enshrined in Uri-I, Dul-Hasti and Salal projects, as stated clearly in clause IXth of Uri-I agreement: The State Government may buy back the project or a part there, if and when it is in a position to do so, after paying the depreciated cost of the same. And in clause IVth of Salal agreement: The Ownership of the project will revert to the state Government after a suitable period on payment of depreciated cost in accordance with the J&K electricity act 1971. 

Dul-Hasti was the earliest HEP taken up, it would be interesting to look at its legal provisions. Cabinet memo dated: 28.11.1980, submitted to the cabinet regarding Dul-Hasti HEP [Hydro-electric Project] makes mention of the JK State’s stand for entrusting the projects to the central Government formulated and approved by the cabinet vide its Decision No: 328 of 21-06-1975 and communicated to the ministry of Energy, GOI vide letter No: PD/IV/243/72 dated:-21.07.1975. It relates: 

(a) J&K Government will be responsible for execution and management of the project during construction 
(b) Half of the power generated from time to time will be made available to the J&K state at any cost. The power requirement of the state will be reviewed after every five years. 

(c) The project will be fully financed by the GOI 

(d) The Ownership of the project will revert to the state Government after a suitable period on payment of depreciated cost in accordance with the J&K electricity act 1971 

(e) (i) The state Government will be at liberty to sell any surplus power out of its 50% share to any state. 

(ii) The profits earned from the sale of the balance 50% power will be shared between the state Government and GOI equally 

(f) The state Govt. will have the sole rights for development of fisheries and navigation in the reservoir created by the project 

By 1980, as Dul-Hasti came up, different recipe was offered—watered down proposals—10 percent to home state [read JK] plus 1.5 paisa/Kwh for the energy generated by the power station. 15 percent of the generation to be kept “un-allocated” at the disposal of the Central Government to be distributed within the region or outside, depending on overall requirements. And, 75 percent be distributed between the states of the region.

Look at the climb down from 1975 deal. Forgotten was the fact 50 percent HEP production meant for state’s own use. Plus, 50/50 share of revenues earned on 50% of generation on sale. This was worked out as per Cabinet Decision No: 328 of 21-06-1975. It is related that 1975 papers were only partially traceable. Taj Mohi-ud-Din—former JK Minister of Irrigation, PHE & Flood control admitted as much in a SP college seminar in 2011. Stolen or untraceable, the divine intervention perhaps had a reference to it fall in place No ministry, be it of Abdullah’s or Mufti’s claiming to hold JK state interests dear, ever dared to appoint a commission to look into loss of vital documents, virtually state’s lifeline. 

Piyush Goyal, GOI Energy Minister also cites financial reasons. Translated, it means states getting benefited from JK’s HEPP stand to suffer financial losses. Two, the stock value of NHPC stands to suffer, if 2000 + MW were to be transferred to JK. The use of the word ‘’power projects owned by NHPC’’ by GOI’s MOS Power does not have an everlasting sanction. Mark the word ‘’reversion’ used in agreements [read clause‘d’ of 1975 deal and clause IV of Salal deal]. It implies, reverting the ownership to the original owner. ‘BOOT’ is the internationally accepted mode in such projects—built, own, operate and transfer. The agreements clearly entail it, even if the term was not in vogue in yester-years. 

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]