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regular-article-logo Thursday, 30 May 2024

‘Complete power failure’: HC rap for J&K government ahead of PM Modi’s visit

'During court hours, the high court has suffered a complete power failure. The generators are also not working. There are no lights. The air heating unit is also not functional'

Muzaffar Raina Srinagar Published 20.02.24, 06:04 AM
Umbrellas out on a rainy Sunday in Srinagar.

Umbrellas out on a rainy Sunday in Srinagar. PTI picture.

The Jammu and Kashmir government on Monday received a rap from the high court for a “complete power failure” during court proceedings, the embarrassment coming a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes visiting and showcases the “development” the region has witnessed.

“During court hours, the high court has suffered a complete power failure. The generators are also not working. There are no lights. The air heating unit is also not functional. It is pathetic and unbelievable that this is the condition of the Srinagar wing of the High Court of J&K and Ladakh,” the bench of Justices Moksha Khajuria Kazmi and Atul Sreedharan said in an order.

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The highest daytime temperature in Srinagar was 2 degrees Celsius, and it rained through the day. Snowfall was predicted later on Monday or Tuesday.

“The power failure has taken place at about 9.45am and has still not been restored when this order is passed at about 11.28am. The matter has gone from bad to worse,” the high court said.

Modi will be in Jammu on Tuesday to inaugurate or launch Rs 30,500 crore worth of development projects — some of them for other places in the country — in education, railways, aviation and roads.

The trip is aimed at bolstering the claim that Jammu and Kashmir has finally found peace and development since its special status was scrapped in 2019.

Kashmir, however, has this winter been witnessing its worst power crisis in decades. The government has added fuel to the fire by launching a public campaign to name, shame and poke fun at consumers it accuses of involvement in power theft.

The administration faced further condemnation last month after reports said it was leasing out electricity from a major under-construction power project to Rajasthan, triggering allegations of robbing the region’s resources.

On Monday, the high court sought a “permanent solution” from the government, including a separate power line that did not experience “downtime” and was supported by generators capable of powering the entire high court and its heating units during an outage.

The government has so far not reacted to the court order but an official said proper action would follow.

Former advocate-general Mohammad Ishaq Qadri said the power failure took place while he was pleading a case.

“The situation was such that neither the judges nor I could read from the files. The judges were looking at me and I was looking at them. I told the court I could not go through the file. Such an interruption is a contempt of court,” Qadri told The Telegraph.

“I argued before the court that if this was the situation inside the high court, how must ordinary citizens be suffering?”

He said the strong winds of the previous night may have disrupted supply, but the backup system should have been ready. Sunday night’s winds cut off power to several areas in Kashmir.

Qadri said he had told the court about the ordeal faced by ordinary citizens, including cancer patients, because of frequent power outages.

Snowfall at a tourist destination of Sonamarg in Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Snowfall at a tourist destination of Sonamarg in Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir. PTI picture

“Our population is increasing every year, which means consumption also increases. But there is no improvement in the power supply. On the contrary, the electricity generated by our power projects is exported,” he said.

Security has been tightened across Jammu and Kashmir ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit. He is scheduled to address a rally at the Maulana Azad Stadium in Jammu.

This is Modi’s second visit to Jammu in his second term, after multiple visits during his first. He has not visited Kashmir since the constitutional changes of 2019.

Among the projects to be inaugurated are the Banihal-Khari-Sumber-Sangaldan railway line (48km) and the newly electrified Baramulla-Srinagar-Banihal-Sangaldan section (185.66km).

Modi will also inaugurate an All India Institute of Medical Sciences at Vijaypur (Samba), Jammu, as well as an IIT and an IIM in Jammu besides projects elsewhere in the country.

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