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Power spinoff to healing touch

Srinagar, Jan. 6: In a “side effect of the healing touch doctrine”, all 300,000 government employees in Jammu and Kashmir will have to produce no-objection certificates from the electricity department before claiming salaries for March.

The state directive has come in the wake of uninterrupted electricity supply to the Valley as part of the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government’s “healing touch policy”.

“No electricity means the government’s failure in doing its duties. But non-payment of electricity dues by consumers is not only a failure of civic responsibilities, but also a criminal act,” state finance minister Muzaffar Hussain Beigh said.

The drive to collect electricity dues would be complemented by a campaign to identify and disconnect unauthorised power connections, thousands of which allegedly exist in the Valley.

Many residents believe unauthorised connections exist with the tacit approval of power department staff, who are reported to regularly collect “fees at lower rates from illegal consumers and pocket them”.

The state’s ability to continue distributing the “electricity largesse” is doubtful because there has been almost no snowfall this winter, which would mean a low discharge into the local rivers in the summer.

As a result, the state would have to spend more than Rs 55 crore each month to keep its “healing touch policy alive by supplying electric power to the locals”.

“At present, the cumulative power bill stands at Rs 2,200 crore, of which only Rs 100 crore was realised as electricity tariff from consumers during the previous fiscal,” Beigh said.

A spokesman of the power department warned “people against misuse of electricity” and vowed “punishment under the Electricity Act to those with illegal connections”. People with illegal domestic or commercial connections have been given a week to legalise these, he said.

“The realisation that the evaluation of the healing touch policy in terms of cost incurred might hurt an already crippled economy is dawning on the government,” a Kashmir watcher said.

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