Smart Meter Installation Sparks Controversy in Jammu & Kashmir

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September 20, 2023

Smart Meter Installation Sparks Controversy in Jammu & Kashmir

Kerala rejects Centre's Smart Meter Scheme - Northlines

  • The installation of smart electricity meters in Jammu & Kashmir has encountered significant resistance, particularly in the Hindu-majority Jammu region.
  • Public discontent has led to protests organized by various groups, including the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), disrupting normalcy in key districts.
The Power Struggle
  • The agitation against smart meter deployment has potential political ramifications, potentially impacting future elections.
  • In 2014, the BJP secured an unprecedented 25 seats, predominantly from the Jammu region, solidifying its presence with a record 23% vote share.
  • However, recent reforms, including the introduction of prepaid smart meters, have unsettled the region.
Challenges and Concerns
  • Critics argue that the prepaid smart meters are yielding inflated bills due to alleged discrepancies in readings.
  • The JCCI, unsatisfied with verbal assurances, is now seeking written guarantees from authorities and has hinted at escalating protests after the festive season.
Electricity Woes in J&K
  • Electricity remains a pressing issue in J&K, especially during harsh winters when demand peaks for heating appliances.
  • Persistent challenges include high pilferage rates, substantial transmission and distribution losses (the highest in the country at 57%), and a growing revenue deficit exacerbated by increased power purchases.
Hope in Smart Metering
  • Chief Engineer Javed Yousuf Dar expresses optimism, anticipating an improvement in the situation with the goal of achieving 100% smart meter installation by 2025.
Past Attempts and Current Imperatives
  • Efforts to regularize power supply date back to the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led government in 2005. However, a significant portion of the 2.2 million connections remains unmetered. In a bid to address losses, the J&K administration mandated the implementation of smart metering in 2022.
Benefits of Smart Meters
  • Smart meters offer consumers the ability to monitor their daily power consumption and costs, facilitating more informed usage decisions.
  • Additionally, the prepaid system enhances revenue collection by ensuring payment prior to consumption, thereby reducing arrears and defaults.
  • Moreover, it brings about transparency by eliminating manual meter reading and curbing theft.
Installation Progress and Consumer Concerns
  • As per official data, around 200,000 and 190,000 smart meters have been installed in Jammu and Kashmir, respectively.
  • While some minor issues were detected and promptly addressed, no cases of inflated bills were reported.
Political Dynamics and Government Stance
  • The BJP, facing pressure on the issue, has sought a rollback, emphasizing that the administration should prioritize the interests of those with limited resources.
  • However, L-G Manoj Sinha asserts that fair payment for power usage is essential for improved services, especially for those with the means to pay.
  • The deployment of smart meters in Jammu & Kashmir has become a contentious issue, with deep-seated concerns about bill accuracy and affordability.
  • Balancing these interests while ensuring reliable power supply remains a critical challenge for the administration in the region.

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Smart Meter Installation Sparks Controversy in Jammu & Kashmir | Vaid ICS Institute