Hail Omar


The recent decision of Omar Abdullah government in Jammu & Kashmir to take over three hydro power projects from the centrally owned NHPC is noteworthy in the backdrop of the long-standing demand in Manipur for taking such a step in the case of the Loktak Hydro-electric Power project.  What is more interesting is the suggestion that such takeover policy should also apply to other hydel projects where there are no existing agreements. This is how state leaders should take policy decisions in state interests in a federal set-up whatever be the form. India practices federalism with a strong centre and as a result, regionalism had come of age in the recent past. We are seeing stark examples of the growth of regionalism in Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir and the north-east, and more recently in West Bengal. And regional leaders are increasingly asserting regional stances on different issues. The recent protest of non-Congress chief ministers in relation to the National Counter-Terrorism Centre is a case in point. This should perhaps be an eye opener for the leaders of Manipur, and the incoming government after March 6.

Jammu & Kashmir’s case is of taking over three centrally owned hydro-electric projects in Salal, Uri and Dulhasti on the recommendations of a Cabinet sub-committee. The sub-committee hasd also recommended effective monitoring of all agreements and terms and conditions which have been made with NHPC keeping in view the benefits and rights of the state. The J & K government also signed MOUs with the Central government with regard to seven other hydel projects in 2000. As per the agreement, these seven projects are required to be handed over back to the state government after their final execution. The sub-committee also suggested that the same formula be made applicable to all projects including Salal, Uri and Dulhasti and other such projects where no prior agreements are existing with regard to such projects.

Manipur’s relation with NHPC with regard to power is in a pitiable condition. In a reply to a recent RTI query, the Power Department replied that it could not locate the MOU signed between the state government and the NHPC regarding Loktak project. Again a case is pending in a lower court regarding the payment of tax for use of water from Loktak Lake for power generation between the state government and NHPC. This speaks volumes on the way NHPC regards Manipur government. Manipur is getting meagre only 12 percent free power from NHPC, while the devastation caused for upkeep of the project is tremendous. More than 80 thousand hectares of cultivable land had gone under water in the periphery of the lake, which in turn led to thousands of traditional farmers losing work and extreme poverty. Later on, they resorted to fish farming. While on the other hand, the traditional methods of fishing in Loktak Lake became obsolete and fishermen began using insecticides thereby causing health hazards. In such a scenario, it is pitiable that Manipur cannot assert its rights and remain subservient to NHPC. Please for the sake of Manipur, follow J & K‘s example.


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