Authorities of the State Power Development department have dispelled rumours of any privatisation of the power sector in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
For the last fortnight, employees of the state power development department have been agitating against privatisation. The agitation is fuelled by fear that once privatised, service benefits and service protection of the serving employees would be compromised.
Speaking to IANS, Qazi Hashmat, Chief Engineer, Maintenance and Rural Electrification, said: “The rumours of privatisation are completely unfounded. There is no plan to privatise the department.
“The government proposes to unbundle the department to break it into four profit-oriented companies.
“These would include electric power generation (Genco), power distribution Jammu (Discom Jammu), power distribution valley (Discom Valley) and the power buying and selling company (Trade Co). All these would be completely state-owned companies.
“Ofcourse these companies would be profit-oriented while they will protect the service benefits of the present employees that includes the chief engineer down to the level of our lineman.
“All the presently serving employees/officers would continue to be government servants while they serve these state owned companies on deputation,” the Chief Engineer said.
Squashing fears of the employees losing their service benefits, the Chief Engineer said, “Instead of losing any of their present benefits the profit-oriented companies would work out better working conditions and benefits for their staffs”.
He said after these four state-owned companies come into existence after the complete unbundling of the power development department, future employments would be made by the companies and those engaged thereafter would be employees of these companies.
“It will take many years before these companies can employ their own staff. Till that time, all of us serving the department presently would continue to be government servants on deputation.
“A big advantage after these companies come into existence is that we can check power pilferage, fix tariffs and supply uninterrupted power without any political interference. The Trade Co can decide buy power at peak hours without any official red-tapism involved”, the Chief Engineer said. (IANS)
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returned to Dhaka from a successful four-day visit to India last week having concluded seven agreements. But the agreements have caused unease among many in Bangladesh. Critics have panned the agreements as mainly advantageous to India and of little benefit to Bangladesh. Other commentators have called on the government to publish full details of the agreements.
India and Bangladesh signed seven agreements and MOUs on October 5, 2019 and a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) agreement for transportation of goods. The agreements include a pact for supply of LNG as well as water from Feni River to India, and for transportation of Indian goods through Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh to Tripura.
A Bangaldeshi media report claimed that there was little information available in the public domain about the agreements. In a caustic comment it said that while details of the lavish meals prepared for the Bangladeshi leader were enthusiastically reported on by the Bangladeshi media, there was no information on the nature of the agreements.
The agreements to provide connectivity were described as regional connectivity, but one critic termed them bilateral connectivity as they served Indian interests and had scant benefit for Bangladesh. “India certainly stands to benefit, but Bangladesh is yet to make a tangible assessment of its gains,” it said.
India’s smaller South Asian neighbours have often perceived New Delhi as exploitative for using its clout to negotiate one-sided agreements advantageous to India while ignoring its neighbours’ interests.
Sheikh Hasina defended her government’s decision to supply 1.82 cusecs of water from the Feni river to India for drinking water purposes as a very small amount of water.
“If someone asks for drinking water, how can we deny it?” she said.
Regarding the agreement to supply of LPG, she added that it was not CNG that Bangladesh would be selling to India, but LPG, which was a byproduct in the refining of oil. In 2001, the possibility of selling natural gas to India had become a major controversy in Bangladesh with Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party objecting to the sale of a scarce resource.
The agreement to supply Feni river water has rankled as there has been no movement on finding a resolution on the sharing of Teesta River waters. The criticism acquired a serious turn with the murder of a second year student of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology by fellow students for criticizing Sheikh Hasina and the agreements in a Facebook post. The students were allegedly members of the Chhatra League, the youth wing of the ruling Awami League party.
India’s ties with Bangladesh are at their peak, among the best of India’s relations with its South Asian neighbours. But the criticism of the agreements with India is evoking memories old irritations and suspicions.
There are several pending issues between India and Bangladesh such as the huge trade deficit and sharing of Teesta river waters. Dhaka has been remarkably patient over New Delhi’s problems in agreeing to a resolution on sharing of the river waters.
Sheikh Hasina’s government has accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance that he would work towards a satisfaction resolution to the ticklish issue. The main impediment on the Teesta issue is the stance of the Mamata Bannerjee-led West Bengal government.
The National Register of Citizens exercise in Assam with identification of illegal migrants has raised grave concern in Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina has accepted for now the Indian stance that it is an internal matter of India. But comments by Indian leaders about pushing out the foreigners have their ripples in Bangladesh which facile assurances do not alleviate.
Building trust between the two neighbours has been a slow and steady process that involved wiping away the mistrust and suspicion that that had plagued relations for long. The resolution of the sharing of the Ganga waters removed a major irritant in the ties.
Sometime later, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s assurance that Bangladesh territory would not be used for anti-India activities and its effective implementation became the first major step in building the trust. The resolution of the Land Boundary Agreement for demarcating the border was the second positive factor in generating trust and confidence. It created the environment for closer cooperation between the two countries. Both Dhaka and New Delhi have used the friendly environment to construct a cooperative relationship.
New Delhi can easily lose that goodwill if the sentiment that India is uncaring and lackadaisical about issues of interest to Bangladesh begins to gain ground in Dhaka. New Delhi needs to be more sensitive to Dhaka’s concerns. It should speed up tackling the long pending issues before they build up into a major grievance in Bangladesh, which could make it difficult to implement already concluded agreements. (IANS)