New Delhi: As part of the Union government’s attempt to improve its relations with Jammu and Kashmir, state-run NHPC Ltd continues to supply electricity to the terrorism-hit state despite outstanding dues of 1,045 crore. Of this, 625 crore is due by over six months.

India’s largest hydropower generation utility withdrew its notice of regulation to suspend electricity supply to the state over unpaid dues. According to the law, utilities are allowed to regulate or discontinue power supply if dues haven’t been paid.

This also comes in the backdrop of the impending 16th Lok Sabha election; the state accounts for six seats in the lower house of Parliament. The polls will be held in nine phases between 7 April and 12 May, with Jammu and Kashmir going to the polls in five phases on 10, 17, 24 and 30 April and 7 May.

Publicly listed NHPC’s leniency can be gauged from the fact that out of a total 1,531 crore owed to it, Jammu and Kashmir alone accounts for 1,045 crore.

“The dues are pending for a very long time. So much so that the company decided to suspend electricity supply to the state over unpaid dues after 15 February," an NHPC executive said, requesting anonymity. “However, given the sensitivities involved, the notice for regulation was withdrawn on the night of 14 February. The state government says that it doesn’t have any money to pay."

NHPC, formerly National Hydroelectric Power Corp. Ltd, has a generation capacity of 5,702 megawatts (MW) and includes projects taken up in joint ventures. Of the 4,857MW generated by NHPC, around 2,000MW is generated from the state. NHPC supplies 820MW to Jammu and Kashmir.

“The notice for regulation was withdrawn because it was the peak of winter. One can’t be heartless and stop power then," a power ministry official said on condition of anonymity. “Also, it being Jammu and Kashmir, we have to be soft on them."

While Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corp. Ltd (JKSPDC) officials couldn’t be contacted, another power ministry official, who also didn’t want to be identified, said: “J&K is a special state and has to be treated accordingly."

Of the 1,132 crore due to NHPC for more than 60 days, the state owes 970 crore. The balance is to be paid by Uttar Pradesh ( 35 crore), Himachal Pradesh ( 20 crore), Rajasthan ( 4 crore), BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd ( 15 crore) and BSES Yamuna Power Ltd ( 30 crore), Bihar ( 28 crore), Jharkhand ( 10 crore), Assam ( 2 crore) and Meghalaya ( 16 crore). The dues are to be paid by JKSPDC.

Electricity supplies are regulated after outstanding due of 60 days. Interestingly, NHPC has regulated electricity supply to Meghalaya. Out of 16 crore due by Meghalaya, 10 crore is overdue by more than 180 days.

“Electricity supply has been stopped to Meghalaya. Jammu and Kashmir is the biggest defaulter for us. However, there is a different yardstick for the state. We are referred as the East India Company there," said another NHPC executive who also declined to be named.

“The story of power is not a simple game of arithmetic in Kashmir. It needs to be understood in the backdrop of complex Centre-state relations, the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, and complex narrative of trust deficit, alienation and betrayal," said Shweta Singh, an assistant professor in the department of international relations at South Asian University. “The other side of the story is local and state-level governance in Kashmir is marred in issues of corruption and accountability. Thus, any issue on power generation as well as distribution is a political issue. For the local Kashmiri, the fact that locally generated power has not been to put to optimum utilization in the valley is a source of antagonism."

This comes at a time when NHPC’s projects have been under the terror threat.

Of 991 crore due to NHPC for more than 90 days, J&K owes 904 crore. Of 642 crore due to NHPC for more than 180 days, J&K accounts for 625 crore.

This also comes in the backdrop of India’s largest power generation utility NTPC Ltd decision to suspend electricity supply to the BSES companies over unpaid dues after 10 February. They approached the Supreme Court for relief in their standoff against NTPC. The case is in the courts.

Border tension and terrorist attacks increased last year with Indian and Pakistani soldiers being killed in apparent counterattacks along the Line of Control border in Jammu and Kashmir.