Thursday, May 28, 2015

EID:- Little has changed


preparations.
Unidentified sources(Unidentified has not been used anywhere in the world so frequently as in Kashmir. The word owes us a share of its popularity) have told that (Lak)Akbar Lone was seen bargaining for a pair of sheep in Eidgah. When the  Bakarwal brother didn’t relent, Mr Akbar began using his soft language which attracted huge crowd. Bakarwal buisnessman was not moved, so Akbar had to accept defeat this time. But who knows where the Bakarwal brother is now. People in Kashmir can well imagine his fate.
Meanwhile in Gupkar, sacrifice of calf has been unofficially banned. Perhaps the connotation to the word “Dand” is seen as offensive in the area. A man who had unknowingly got a calf from a far off village to save a few bucks has been told not to sacrifice it in the posh area. “ Dandee Maaz khewn chee haraam” was the order he got and in the same breath it was dictated that if he didn’t relent, the interrogation centres of Sonwar were not far.
In South Kashmir, everything non veg is relished. I am told that many bottles have already been ordered for the big day. Father daughter have big plans for the days to come. Cattle have been reared for this day and feast will continue for many more days as well.
Common Kashmiris are seen queing outside bakery shops. Every variety of bakery needs to be taken, otherwise the status of the family will have to be compromised. Many buther shops have already closed due to unexpected rush this time. Perhaps Raghuram effect is more pronounced in Kashmir than in Indian economy in general.
In villages the traditional songs and dance will adorn the gardens. “Eid aayey wasey wasey, eidgah waswew eidgah waswew” will again be sung with same enthusiasm as always. Little has changed in Kashmir..

My Story and My Vote




I don’t know why this occurred to me hours after midnight but this is not the first time that this remembrance has haunted me.  Sometimes pen is the best friend and words the only solace. Let me directly narrate the story now

I don’t exactly remember the year but I believe it was 2004. Nothing much to worry about the dates anyway. We, a family of five, were sitting in our living room and were just about to call it a day when our main entrance gate was banged open. Suddenly we all were frightened. Grandma began saying, “Khudaya pardee haa Rachzee” (Oh Allah, Save our honor). Mom and sister were frightened like anything. My father has always been a bold man but I could still see fear in his eyes as well. As they knocked on our main door so heavily that next moment it would break off, my Dad mustered the courage and got up to see who is up there. I went besides him.

As we opened the door, we could see an entire regiment of Army in our garden. The person leading the operation immediately asked us to put off the lights and we abided. All people in our area knew of that regiment. It was headed by a notorious major known in common parlance as “Souran Singh”. Souran Singh was more than 6ft tall, bearded man with red eyes and muscular body. Adult boys would often hide seeing him and young would run to safer places. He used to utter abuses which were unheard of and their oftenness had no parallel, neither can there be. They brought us out of our home and took us to the nearby lane. Souran Singh took out a piece of paper which had a list of surrendered militants and asked us in which homes they resided. Only two lived in our locality. One of them had turned insane and the other one had started bakery business in downtown Srinagar.

Soon after Souran’s team barged into the house of the family who surrendered son was running a bakery business. Unable to find him there, they took out his brother and started beating him ruthlessly. I have never seen human being stooping to such low levels. He was being beaten like he was an animal..Period…Not even animals are beaten that way. My father tried to talk to Soran Singh but he answered with a cane. He was beaten to pulp till he lay unconscious. I was a small kid then but Souran’s heart knew no mercy. He made me run up the road and his men even tortured me. Tears still roll down but time heals everyone.

 I am still unable to fathom why Souran had come that evening. What was the purpose of his visit? Was it a show of power or a mere evening party they were enjoying or was it the aftermath of alcohol? Perhaps, time always does not have the answers or perhaps we are asking the wrong questions?

If I vote this time, will I get answer to any of these questions? Will the kind of torture that happened 10 years ago and still continues stop? Will any politician-CM and all union ministers included- prevail over the army? Will a fair enquiry be conducted for all the crimes that have happened?


Newshour: Ultra Super Prime Time



Fiction:

This Thursday evening, the country's most watched news channel aired a special show for the not so learned audience. The show was aired to selected audience who find it hard to follow the super primetime show due to their low intelligence quotient and hence miss it except once in a blue moon. The show was called ultra super primetime and the guests included among countless others (im) prominent faces like Raza(Read Razamand of Goswami), the ever coming general Bakshi and cricketers as well. It was a pure no non sense debate. The judge, the lawyer, the witness and the anchor were combined in a single entity to keep the number of panellists to a bare minimum 15.

Arnab (Very softly): Let's get to the point. The point is simple.

Suddenly from nowhere a rabid dog must have bitten Arnab. He begins to scream.

Arnab furiously: Why did you shame the nation. Why did you lose Mr Dhoni. The nation wants to know
Dhoni: It is a game and
Arnab: Please don’t give me this. This argument may find takers in other channels but not here. The fact of the matter is that you have shamed us all today. You should say Sorry and resign.
Raza: I want to make a point Arnab.
Arnab: yes Maroof. Go ahead
Raza (In a tone more furious than Arnab. They compete equally well in this department of non sense):- The team has led us to humiliation. I don’t understand why they are being flown in choppers and given accommodation in 5 star hotels. It is for the BJP and the congress to answer that why such a treatment is given to them.
Arnab: Absolutely. They have brought disgrace to this country. They play because we spend money on their trips. Do they think they can get away with their girlfriends like this.
Bakshi: I want to come Arnab. I want to come
Dhoni: All I am trying to say is that this is a game
Arnab: Please stop Mr Dhoni. I have given you sufficient time. There are other people in the panel who haven’t spoken. Please learn to listen as well. Yes Mr Bakshi
Bakshi: The team is under the influence of anti nationals and separatists. They are not doing their job fairly. They have been influenced by their ideology and we won’t let it happen.
Arnab: Right Gen Bakshi. You see the point is this. That we have been beaten. That the nations conscience has been shaken. And the nation wants answers. We demand answers and we will follow this story irrespective of what the political parties say. By the way Mr Patra why did you not change the team after you came to power.
Raza: They are both one. The BJP and the congress are one Arnab. They don’t have an independent foreign cricket policy.
Arnab: Yes, absolutely. Sanjay Jha hasn't spoken.. Why are you quite Mr Jha.
Sanjay: See Arnab. India has won two world cups and both have been won under congress government, one in 1983 and the other in 2011. The BJP should answer.
Arnab: Rubbish.
The debate continued but the electricity was cut off in our area at this point. People said that wind blew at a speed above the normal speed and uprooted several electric poles. The area engineer has said that the restoration process will take at least 3 days.


ADIEU Kawas


Somehow, I always think of myself as being a cool dude kindda guy. Many times I take strong positions on issues I have close to my heart. Getting emotional had not crossed my mind except once when I left Kashmir for the first time before joining NTPC. That day mom got emotional and so did I, but it was just for a few minutes and then everything felt so normal.

Today, as my mentor, friend and guide Ravi Gupta came to my room and hugged me, I literally got goose bumps. Till today I had never thought I would get emotional but today I got and thankfully I controlled myself.

I always had my own concerns before joining NTPC. When I joined Kashmir was boiling. I didn’t get my offer letter and hartals didn’t allow me to complete the formalities which were required to be completed before joining. That summer 110 young boys were killed and Kashmir was everywhere in the national media. Few young students in Delhi had been implicated in terror cases only to be let free by the court after a few years. So, the circumstances were difficult and I had expected my own share of worries. During my induction period a fellow colleague who had once been to Kashmir narrated a poem to a thunderous applause from audience which portrayed Kashmir like in a typical nationalistic narrative does. I was reassured of the circumstances which I thought would follow.

I was posted in Farakka for my training. Contrary to my expectations I found wonderful people. Even the person who narrated the poem became a wonderful friend. It was once of the most memorable experiences in my life. The span of around 10 months spend there left an indelible mark on my mind about the goodness of people. Farakka was like college only. You went to class, learnt a few things and wrote a few exams. But it was Kawas that actually showed one his first job.

As I arrived here, I attended the simulator training. I found wonderful people and make great bonds with everyone around. Akhil and Mukund became more of brothers than friends. Nitesh had a bonding which normally takes years to form. Shaily was a girl who was brainy and beautiful at the same time and very helpful.  Mudit was a boy of great abilities. A true gentleman around whom everyone lover to hover and so did I. So it all started on a sober note and then there was the real so called hardcore job.

I was asked to take up the position of a desk engineer and though I highly doubted that I will ever learn so many systems and machines. But who would not. I found people like Paramsivam Sir who was very humble and cooperative and a great boss. Manish Sir once told me, “Iqbal, I don’t care what you do for most of your time. Learn the basics so that I have confidence in you and during other times, pursue what you like”.

But if there is once person who I respected immensely in Kawas, it was Ravi Sir. He has always been a source of inspiration for me. A boss, a friend, a great teacher and a genuine leader. He would take me to local, ask questions and again answer them himself. I shall never forget him and I owe most of my learning to him, almost all.

GM sir and my HOD Pramal Sir loved me a lot. They always had a great interpersonal touch and I shall remember them always.
I learnt being organised from AGM O&M.

I never had a great interaction with girls after school. But here they became my best friends. I spend some of my best time with Keerthi. She was caring and wonderful. Kanupriya as calm and cool as one can get, was a rich source of time spend qualitatively. Again, Poulami would entertain with her comedy and ever smiling face. How can I forget Deepika. She is crazy and wonderful at the same time, intelligent and dumb at the same time. She is always a wonderful company to be with .

Coming back of Meenakshi to Kawas was a wonderful experience in itself. She is wonderful in her own way and has been my best friend in NTPC so far.
I learnt a lot from some people. People like OP would teach you to stand my truth and stand for it vociferously. And then there were people like Navodit who would teach you to remain calm and take everything lightly.

There were a few gems here as well. Jhala sir is a person who teaches one every time one is around him. Vijendra Sir was a dynamic person with whom you can discuss anything. A true professional should embody Vijendra.

I was lucky to find some wonderful seniors. They never gave one a feel of being seniors. Girish was a person who would treat us to wonderful food which I relished everytime. OP and Dixit were humble and jolly in nature and one would always get around them and spend quality time with them. Sandeep became a good friend when he came to Kawas and I spend some good time with him. Harish sir is a soft spoken person and very helpful. He told me many times that if I ever require a help, he would be there.

I am thankful to Priya Madam and Madan Sir who often invited me home. I had some of the most scrumptious food in their home and I shall always  remember their generosity. Thanks from the core of my heart. Without you Kawas would not even have been half wonderful as it was.

Shalini taught me about generators and became a wonderful friend. I liked the way Shalini and Apporva fought with each other over petty issues and drove pleasure out of it. That in a way taught me to drive pleasure from small things which one often ignores.

How can I forget people like Samund Sir. I have held him in high regard because of his concern for the poor. In one of our firld visits for toilet survey, I remember how concerned he was about poor children. More than charity, a sense of belongingness is required and that is what I found in him. Sahu sir was another great person who never hesitated in asking and never hesitated in telling as well. He was the first person who taught me about switch-yard in a detailed way.

Though I had little interaction with gurpreet Sir but he was very helpful when I required. He patiently listened to our presentations and suggested changes. A person is known by how he is remembered after he leaves a particular place and in that way I would consider myself lucky if I am remembered even 1% of how he is remembered.

Varun sir never became my direct boss and I never worked in his shift. But still if there is one person in whom one can repose his faith and trust, it’s him. He has been a wonderful mentor and has helped me like no one else. I shall always remain indebted to him for all he has done for me.
I also learnt a lot of self discipline from Nitesh. His documentation is excellent and so is his knowledge.  Sachin sir was like a childhood friend who would tell you all details about the craziest things that exist. I leant sincerity from Santosh sir. Nirav sir was a friend who taught you every-time with a smiling face and so was Praveen sir.

I have learnt a lot from non executives like Kishore Bai, JB Bai, Girish Bai, Sonawane Ji, DR Bai, RJ bai and others. They are the people who have taught me many things which are there to learn and I am thankful to them for all this.

Thank you all. Sorry I couldn’t write about all but will try to do.



Friday, March 27, 2015

Towards understanding the power budget


The write up presents a bird’s eye view of the power budget and does not go into the details. Though there are important issues which need threadbare discussion and debate, this write up only aims to give the reader an idea about what was presented with a little commentary only about the most pressing issues.

In a “Landmark initiative” by the new government the power budget for 2015-2016 was presented separately from the general budget. As per the finance minister this was done for three reasons. “First, sustainable development of energy resources coupled with reforms in the power sector in a definite time frame.  Second, supply of 24×7 quality, reliable and affordable power to all Domestic, Commercial and Industrial consumers. Third, containment of our fiscal deficit and unleashing of a new era of development”. The intent seems to be good but the execution should match the intent and for that the roadmap needs to be pragmatic. 
 
The budget talks about power sector in terms of Generation, Transmission, distribution and reforms. Let’s look at what is offered in each sector.

Generation:-
For development of hydro power projects the budget envisages making J&K power development corporation (JKPDC), a public company which means that it shall be listed in the market. This shall bring more money and strengthen the corporation. The budget also talks about developing 7500 MW of solar power in Ladakh. Since the electricity produced from solar sources is costly, the budget envisages that this power shall be bundled with cheap hydro and thermal power. The mechanism is already in work in many states and as per recommendations of the central electricity regulatory commission it has to be done. Again the budget talks about a joint venture thermal power project which it wrongly states is in Madhya Pradesh whereas it is actually located in Odisha. The budget only states that preliminary work would be carried out regarding this project which giving any more details. It needs a detailed analysis to conclude whether this project would be fruitful for J&K or would be like many other stations in India which lie idle and are making huge losses since their electricity costs are high. I shall try to delve deep into this in a separate write up.
The state currently has 761.96 MW of aggregate capacity in state sector from all Hydro sources which are being used to meet local demand. The budget doesn’t talk about whether this entire power is made available to the state or some part is sold as well to other states to generate revenue. The budget states that J&K shall have a peak load of 4217 MW in 2021-22 and the PDC has made a roadmap for meeting this requirement. The envisaged 6263 MW which will be generated via 15 projects shall need an investment of 60,000 Crore. The big question remains how will the state manage even 18000 Crore based on 70:30 debt equity ratio when it is already faces severe financial crunch and no major boost to revenue creation is seen in foreseeable future. 
 
The budget figures clearly point out that the central sector-read NHPC- has made huge headways in the generation sector whereas the state has not been able to match the pace and has been a laggard all through over the past many years. Again the budget states that the state government shall seek to enhance the free power from central utilities from the current 12% but this seems to be difficult as it deviates from the recommendations of the CERC which central utilities follow religiously and the central government is unlikely to agree to J&K’s demand for additional free power. Therefore, the additional free power statement seems nothing more than a rhetoric.

The budget also talks about the coal block allocation in Odisha which shall feed the proposed 660MW supercritical thermal power project in Odisha. It argues that it shall be profitable to locate the plant in Odisha vis-à-vis J&K. However, many experts argue that it is wise to buy power from generating stations in northern grid rather than Odisha as the power from Odisha plant shall prove to be very costly compared to what is available in northern grid. Experts estimate that the cost per unit of the Odisha project shall be Rs 5/unit whereas we can buy power at cheaper rates from the northern grid. The location of the plant in a different grid shall again come with transmission hassles as inter-regional transmission capabilities are limited. 


 
 Transmission, Distribution and Reforms

The budget states that “the infrastructure available to meet  the transmission of estimated  demand  at   the   end   of  12th plan  is  not   adequate  enough  in  the State”. The budget rightly points out that in the wake of thrust on generation of more power in the State by undertaking the fresh projects, the transmission systems need to be made capable of handling the evacuation of power to the distribution utility. There will be a gap of 1430  MVA at 220/132 KV level, a gap   of   2029 MVA at 132/66-33kV, a gap of 2539.70MVA at 66-33/11kV and a gap of 3094.36 MVA at 11-6.6/0.4kV  at the end of 12th plan in the transmission capability which needs to be met. 
 
About 9000 MW of capacity addition is under execution in the state out of which around 2100 MW is scheduled to come up by the end of 12th five year plan. The state would have to gear up for evacuation of this power which would need 2500 Crore. Additional transmission lines would be required for evacuation of power from Ladakh from the proposed solar and hydro projects which are due to come up in the region and would require another 10,000 crore. Besides this the vision for “power for all” by 2017 would need an additional investment of 4054 crore. Thus the overall investment in transmission sector is pegged at 16554 (2500 + 10000 + 4054) crore.

The budget clearly points out to a major concern that “the reliability of power supply to Kashmir valley is also a major concern since the power supply is through 220kV & 400kV transmission lines which are passing through same corridor which is highly prone to snow and wind storms”.


The budget also talks about other reforms out of which un-bundling of the department is a big ticket reform. Many people have not appreciated it and a few sections of civil society have opposed it but for improving the health of the department, unbundling is very important as is evident from many examples in other states which have reaped rich benefits after unbundling the power department. The budget also talks about improving the existing HT/LT systems and envisages replacing the rotten poles in high risk areas on priority basis. To solve the problem of transformers getting burnt or other problems in transformers the budget proposes to provide Transformer Bank Funds for strengthening of Transformer Banks. It also talks about setting up of modern workshops and meter testing facilities.

The budget reads that the energy deficit in the state is of the order of 27% and peak power deficit is of the order of 23% which implies that there is energy curtailment of the order of 8 hours in the state, which is source of concern given the harsh climatic conditions in the state. The budget envisages various information technology measures like optic fiber connectivity, electronic billing systems and others which would increase the reliability of supply and all these steps are important and need urgent attention on the ground. 
 
The budget also points out to the losses and states that “against  registered  load  of  2500 MU in  the   state,  the   demand  at   0.5   load demand factor  should not  exceed 1250  MW. But the consumers use  unauthorized load due to  which  unrestricted  demand is  as  high  as 2600  MW which indicate that  actual registered load  should  be   5200   MW”. However, the budget does not project the future demand based on this trend.

As per the experts in the sector the ailing nature of power sector in J&K is mainly because of the inefficient and incapable manpower. People in J&K know very well about the competencies of the personnel in the department. The drawal of power from the grid against the agreed upon schedule which often leads to heavy penalties which the state has to pay is a glaring example of the incompetence of the department. The budget tries to bridge the gap by proposing to set up Chenab Power Management and Training Institute.

The budget also points out to the illegal consumers drawing power which need to be identified, booked and brought under registered consumer category. It states that “as per Census 2010-11, the number of households in the State were 20,15,088 and 17,53,201 households avail electricity. However, 15,72,815 consumers are registered with the PDD ending 2013-14”.

The budget acknowledges that though the per capita electricity consumption in J&K is at par with national average, there is a need to improve it given the harsh climatic conditions in J&K. It’s pertinent to mention that the per capita consumption of electricity in India is very less compared to China and USA and needs to be raised for better standard of living.

As per the budget document, “the Finance department has kept a revenue target of 3508.62 crore for current financial year 2014-15, but actual recovery on account of electricity tariff (including ED) ending February, 2015 is only 1527.67 crore” which indicates that the revenue realization in J&K is very poor. The average cost of power purchase this year up to January, 2015 is Rs 3.78 per kWh (unit). The Department has purchased energy up to January 2015, worth Rs 466.83 crore and Rs 4315.53 crore from JKSPDC and from non-J&K State Generating Companies.

The actual power purchase liability of department is Rs 6266.13 crore. In a single line the budget states that UI/deviation charges are Rs 512.45 crore. The figure should sound alarming as it is only due to the mismanagement of the grid by the grid engineers/operators of the state for which the money has to be paid by the common man. Where hundreds of crores could have been saved, there the state shelves out more than 500 crore as deviation charges. The issue needs to be addressed and the responsible persons need to be held accountable for this colossal loss if power sector is to see some light after years of darkness.

The budget also states that “The non camp temporary installations of Security Forces have been consuming electricity without registered connections. The energy thus consumed by the Security forces goes un-accounted and un-paid”. While the common people of J&K have to pay for their own energy consumption and grid mismanagement by the inefficient staff, the security personnel are enjoying the sweet pie without paying anything. The budget also states that “No realization is made on energy consumed by the Migrant Camps”. One fails to understand that why these settlements are not billed and free electricity is provided to them. Do they serve as vote banks or are there instructions from superior bosses to give them free electricity is a question that the government needs to answer.

(Hakim Iqbal Abdulla is an alumnus of NIT Srinagar and is a power engineer with NTPC based in Surat, Gujarat. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect the views of the organisation he works for. The author can be contacted at qbl.hakim@gmail.com)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Roadmap for Power in Jammu and Kashmir


Things don’t change overnight. The need for the hour is a comprehensive power policy envisioning short term and long term plans for the sector


Hakim Iqbal Abdulla


The most talked about subject after politics in Jammu and Kashmir is power. The supply remains highly erratic even in the metered areas and there is little that the hapless people residing in non metered areas can complain about. The fact remains that power sector in Jammu and Kashmir has been looked into with a parochial view point. Like many other sectors this sector too is a victim of short term planning and lack of vision by the policy makers.
Jammu and Kashmir cannot afford to remain as it is and there is much that the new power minister can do. One cannot go on devising short term solutions to the problems as has been done till now. The power minister now needs to develop a comprehensive plan for the department and get it executed. A short term and a long term vision needs to be developed with due considerations about the local climatic conditions and various other factors. Here I enlist a bare minimum which should be done without much delay.
1.      Strengthen Power Development Department:

                                    i.      The power department in Jammu and Kashmir is in shambles. If you visit any office of the department you will get an idea about how ill equipped the department is. Modern day word is empowered by information technology and power department being technologically intensive needs the help of information technology. The distribution engineers need to have systems in place through which they can monitor the grid, local loading conditions and other critical information.

                                    ii.      The engineers in the department need to be properly trained. There have been many changes by the regulatory authority over the last few years and now-a-days new norms are introduced frequently. Under such circumstances there is a great need to train our workforce so that we comply with the regulatory norms and hence save ourselves from the immense financial losses that the violation of these norms attract. These norms also provide incentives for balancing the grid and an efficient distribution engineer can earn/save lakhs by taking corrective action while monitoring the frequency of the grid

                                  iii.      Again the dignity of the executives as well as non executives of the department needs to be restored. Small things like a renovated chair and table many times has a great impact towards a new beginning. The ministry and the higher officials need to own its people and then only shall the ownership come from the gross root workers of the department. Proper orientation sessions help a lot and should be encouraged.

                                  iv.      There should be zero tolerance towards corruption by the department officials. Responsibilities should be fixed and people should be held accountable for their actions. Till the time a wrongdoing is undone by uttering “Sorry” things won’t change. The officer needs to be held accountable for all the duties assigned to him and action should be taken if the officer is found negligent in his duties.

                                    v.      The best talent of the department should go to the place where it is most needed. Punishment postings based on the location of the plant should be avoided. Projects like Baglihar should be made a dream posting for power engineers in J&K and necessary incentives for working in such projects should be paid to attract and retain the best talent. Again only technical persons should be encouraged for the top postings. As pointed earlier, the power business is highly complex and requires deep understanding of the subject for which one needs the work experience of the power plant for a few years at least.

2.      Unbundling of the department: If one does not know about the weak links that affect the department, one cannot present an effective remedy for the ailment. For understanding the diseased part and curing it, the diseased part needs to be first isolated and then cured. The opposition to the plan of unbundling is unfounded. Many sections of the civil society have unfortunately linked that unbundling of the department with NHPC issue. The two issues are poles apart and cannot be compared. Unbundling has to be seen in proper context and the examples of revival of power department after unbundling like the case of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and others need to be studied and relevant inferences need to be drawn. It is a known fact in the entire power sector that unbundling improves the health of all departments and is a proven solution to the problem and hence should be applied to this ailment as well. Otherwise a more plausible solution to the power department needs to be found and implemented if there exists one?

3.      The surveys done by independent agencies rate Jammu and Kashmir as the most favorable destination for installation of solar power plants. The eastern parts of the state are a favorable location for putting up solar power plants and the area has some of the best sites in India in terms of solar plant location. The construction time of solar plants is less and unlike Hydro there are no geological surprises. Again the cost of solar energy has come down considerably and the cost per Megawatt is now comparable with the fossil fuel based power plants although still a bit higher but they prove beneficial in the long term as they neither pollute the environment nor do they require fuel linkages. The solar plants also present a great case for distributed generation. Since transmission and distribution losses in J&K are among the highest in the country (around 60%) the concept of distributed generation can prove to be a panacea for getting rid of such huge losses.

4.      Investment in small Hydro plants with distributed generation needs to be encouraged. This will help us electrify remote villages with uninterrupted power supply and reduce heavy investments in transmission systems. This will be especially useful for the far off mountainous areas where there is availability of water.

5.      Coal based power plant needs to be pursued only after getting fully convinced about the economics of the project. Whether the project is for strengthening the power development corporation or for meeting the demand of the state needs to be analyzed. The transmission charges from Orrisa need to be factored in and they must be compared with the costs needed to buy power from plants located near to J&K. If things are favorable then the construction should start soon for the power problem to end soon.

6.      The Hydro power plants of large capacity shouldn’t be pursued at this stage. The reason being that they require huge investments compared to other generation methods. Besides the geological surprises often extend the target date for commissioning of the projects as has been witnessed not only in J&K but throughout India. The cost per MW for Hydro is close to 8-9 Crore and it will become difficult to fund large hydro projects even at a debt equity ratio of 70:30. However small hydro stations should be encouraged.

7.      The return of power projects from NHPC needs to be pursued vigorously. The losses suffered on account of non transference should be quantified and put in public domain and adequate compensation should be sought from the central government. However all power talks should not, unlike what has been happening, revolve around NHPC issue and the power sector should be visualized in totality.


(Hakim Iqbal Abdulla is an alumnus of NIT Srinagar and is a power engineer with NTPC based in Surat, Gujarat. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect the views of the organisation he works for. The author can be contacted at qbl.hakim@gmail.com)


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Reforming Our Education System

Towards Reforming Our Education System
Enough is enough. J&K has already waited for long and cannot afford negligence in education sector

On the homepage of the website of the “Directorate of School Education Kashmir” (DSEK) in a bold font with higher word size “Edu News” catches the eye of anyone visiting the website. With a hope that it will at least speak about current education scenario after having browsed every tab I was disheartened to see that the only newsletter it contains, which is unlike any professional newsletter, dates back to 2008. The other day while browsing the Website of Kashmir University I found that under departments tab the first department listed is Arabic and its webpage is still under construction. If the only university in Kashmir can manage such negligence I am sure DSEK must be applauding itself for at least updating its website 7 years ago.

While people in India are talking about reforms in Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 the state of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to make amendments to the archaic JKRTE act 2002. Great hopes were generated in 2013 when everyone talked about JKRTE Amendment act 2013 but till date like many other things the JKRTE act also remains in abeyance.

No education system can be reformed top down but a bottom up approach is needed. Till our school education system does not see massive reform we cannot hope to see places like Kashmir University or similar institutes of higher education to become centers of excellence. Compared to global standards the Indian education system at primary and high school level is below par but compared to most of the Indian states the education system of Kashmir at these levels remains below average.

To reform our education system the following should be considered

1)      An amendment to Jammu and Kashmir Right to Education (JKRTE) act 2002:- The amendment should not be a copy of RTE act 2009 but should be more pragmatic. The suggestions for reforming the RTE act 2009 should be considered like the ones which talk about reforming teacher training system, doing away with reliance on programs like B.Ed among others. All this should have been done at least 5 years prior to this day but now no time should be wasted by the new government to bring about this change as soon as it assumes office.


2)      Ensuring teacher and pupil attendance in schools:- One of the best reform that I saw even in remotest villages of Gujarat was that all schools are equipped with a biometric system. The system only requires a computer and a biometric (finger print) machine. The system is monitored by the education department in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat. It ensures the attendance of both teachers and students and proper entry and exit timing which is the biggest problem in government schools of Kashmir where both attendance and timings are least respected. To ensure that a teacher is present even after punching in the morning, the school can get a call anytime from the office and ask teachers to punch in biometric system thereby ensuring their presence at every time. The attendance of students is monitored as well and low attendance numbers are discussed with the head of the institute. The system is easy to replicate in J&K and will go a long way to built a great culture of respecting time and providing quality education in Kashmir.


3)      Reform in syllabus:- The education system needs to do away with the rote learning activities. The purpose of education should be making students aware about the problems and give them the freedom to design solutions to the problems. There is little room for innovation in our education system. An answer written in words not as shown verbatim by the teacher gets lesser marks even though it may be the same in quality if not more. The syllabus should be designed by giving our students confidence and showing them how the world is growing. The confidence can be instilled by teaching them about great Kashmiri writers, poets, artists and freedom fighters and their contribution towards the society. The major reason why US education system has succeeded for over a century has been the deep seated pride it takes in its education system which is led by innovation.  The students should simultaneously be taught about the latest developments in the field of science and arts in the world and the syllabus should be revised at least every five years.


4)      Engage industry partners and NGO’s:- Private sector in Kashmir remains in shambles but there are a few industries which are flourishing. A model can be created by engaging them and help can also be sought from big corporate houses which have business in Kashmir like IOCL, BPCL, Power grid, NHPC and other companies. Visits to industrial sites if possible should be appreciated. NGO’s can help streamlining the system by giving necessary inputs and engagement with NGO’s has proved beneficial in many states in India.


5)       Make private educational institutions more accountable:- The private education institutes should be made more accountable and they shouldn’t be allowed to charge excessive fees. The private institutes make huge profits under the pretext of education being a social service and thus avoid taxes. The tax payment should be calculated on the revenue that education institutes get and not on other parameters.


These are some of the factors that should be addressed immediately by who so ever assumes the office in the new government in J&K. Until we reform our education system we cannot expect a bright future in the long term.