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Voters standing in queue at a polling station at Bijbehara in Anantnag. (ANI)
Voters standing in queue at a polling station at Bijbehara in Anantnag. (ANI)

Opinion | Poor governance behind the dismal voter turnout

Political leaderships have failed to address the pressing issues of J&K economy

There is a lesson to be learnt from the elections that have happened at Anantnag: It is no longer a matter of party politics or leadership anymore. The people of Kashmir let down by the leadership, now prefer to stay at home rather than come out and vote.

There are pressing problems that have confronted the state economy over the decades and they are problems which our political leaderships have failed to address.

The Indus Water Treaty (IWT), signed in 1960 between the then prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru and president of Pakistan Ayub Khan, brokered by World Bank, put constraints on the usage of water resources for hydropower generation and irrigation capacity building for Jammu and Kashmir. This involves an opportunity cost—the J&K state under the treaty provisions is entitled to use river water resources for hydropower generation and shall not create irrigation capacity building beyond 1.1 million acres.

Hydropower generation is possible provided there is a dam of requisite height. The three rivers, subjected to IWT bottleneck, are Sindh, Jhelum and Chenab flowing through J&K and these rivers survive on snowfall in winter, which in any case is a lean period for power generation because of low level of water, which lasts seven months. Against 2,200 megawatts (MW) of power requirement the state produces hardly one-third of it in the lean period and is bound to purchase power from the centre. It has no resource to buy requisite amount of power and purchases just one-fourth of requirement against payment of 6,000 crore, on an average per annum.

The state does not have resources to harness hydropower on its own but can involve overseas and domestic companies on terms and conditions mutually agreed upon. These companies put conditions, that is, a sovereign guarantee by the state government. But, a sovereign guarantee by the centre has never been given. Farooq Abdullah fought this but failed and later Mufti Mohammad Sayeed made it a point in the election manifesto too, but failed as well.

Sayeed once arranged a meeting with former PM Manmohan Singh in 2004 and while giving the full database to the PM, he constituted a committee headed by C. Rangarajan. The committee has recommended transfer of some power projects to the state, but neither Singh nor PM Modi had the will to implement the report of Rangarajan committee.

Power being a fundamental infrastructure for the state to progress, it remains a serious bottleneck. The domestic investors and also local investors are unable to invest due to lack of power. At the same time, 55 new identified tourism destinations and dream destinations are yet to take off due to scarcity of power. The MSME sector is in a bad shape, state economy is in paralysis and FDI has not trickled down to the state.

While this had led to the governance failure in Jammu and Kashmir, the political leaderships have failed people and now the people are unconcerned with elections and a call for boycott invariably catapults candidates to victory because even a single vote is enough for a candidate to win.

Nisar Ali is a member of the state finance commission of the Jammu and Kashmir government.

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