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The Kashmir valley has been shaken by darkness with the onset of winter. The government has published an electricity reduction schedule with an eight-hour blackout in unmetered areas and a 4.5-hour blackout in metered areas each day. Power cuts in sub-zero temperatures make winter cold much harsher and harder to bear.

The frequent power cuts are not well received by the local population and have drawn much criticism.

“Kashmir has faced harsh winter conditions before and with this new schedule of power cuts, it becomes unbearable for us to live without electricity. The government should rethink the schedule as people cannot bear the cold. Kashmir produces so much electricity and yet we have to face such difficulties,” said local resident Bashir Ahmad.

Jammu and Kashmir generates over 3500 megawatts of electricity through 24 hydropower projects spread across various districts in the union territory. The Kashmir region generates about 2500 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to supply the valley with electricity 24/7 throughout the year.

Political leaders have also lambasted the government for disrupting the power supply. The President of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mehbooba Mufti, attacked the administration and demanded an uninterrupted power supply.

“Our state is generating maximum electricity through these NHPC projects, and electricity and factories across the country are running on this electricity. And because of this, political parties like BJP promise people from other states free electricity and the state that generates that electricity is told not to use the electricity,” said Mehbooba Mufti, former Minister chief of Jammu and Kashmir.

This is a mother in law treatment by BJP towards Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, we should receive free electricity and be compensated for our energy projects.”

Government data suggests that of the 24 hydroelectric projects, 13 are managed by UT through the Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Corporation (JKPDC) which produces 1197 megawatts of electricity.

The state-owned NHPC operates six hydropower projects, mostly in Kashmir, which generate 2,250 megawatts of electricity. The remaining five power projects are operated by other public-private partnership companies which generate 57.5 megawatts of electricity.

Power projects owned by NHPC are for the North India grid and UT of Jammu and Kashmir has to purchase power from them to meet the demand for power supply here.

However, political parties have also started to play free electricity politics on the issue. Apni party chairman Altaf Bukhari has demanded the return of power projects owned by NHPC and promised free electricity up to 500 units for every household in Jammu and Kashmir if they come to power in the UT.

The UT administration recently raised the electricity rate by 18%, further angering the locals in the area.