SERC continues being burden on state exchequer, make it functional or close it

The Indus traverses through Ladakh, while the Jehlum flows through Kashmir and Chenab drains Jammu

Almost majority of autonomous bodies and commissions in Jammu and Kashmir are facing various issues in their overall functioning, State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) is defunct and has neither Chairman nor members since long. Among the headless institutions, SERC is a critical commission.

It was established with the goal of rationalization of electricity tariff, transparent policies regarding subsidies, promotion of efficient and environmentally benign policies and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Commission was supposed to determine tariff for electricity, wholesale, bulk, grid or retail, as the case may be; traffic payable for use of the transmission facilities, to regulate power purchase and procurement process of the transmission utilities and distribution utilities including the price at which the power shall be procured from the generating companies, generating stations or from other sources for transmission, sale, distribution, supply, promoting competition, efficiency and economy in the activities of electricity industry.

In December 2016, SERC chairman’s term expired while two members had already completed their term earlier. The defunct statutory body means a lack of regulation in power purchases and supply in the state.

Last year, the commission had blamed the power department for distribution losses as it had failed to install power metres as per the Electricity Act, 2010. By doing so, the commission had neutralised power department’s habit of blaming people.

While the government failed to streamline the Power Development Department (PDD) completely, the defunct SERC is adding to its issues. The government has ignored this commission which is creating vital for the government as well for the people of this State. Why headless, when the government has so many options at hand.

The members of the Commission completed their term over two years ago. Since then both the posts are lying vacant.Politically messed up system ruined the already crisis-hit administrative system of the commission. Basharat Dar was the last SERC chairman. He demitted the office on December 25, 2016.

Since then, the SERC continues to remain virtually defunct with all the top posts including its Chairman and two members one for Technical and Finance sections continue to remain vacant. The reluctance of the state government to appoint the chairman and the members of the commission shows how difficult the functioning has been for the two coalition partners.

It is also said that the tariff petitions of Power Development Department (PDD) and State Power Development Corporation (SPDC) for the current financial year are unlikely to be decided in view of the Commission being defunct. There seems no headway in the process to appoint new SERC chairperson. The government must take some steps and appoint a well-meaning expert to this post and avoid another political rehabilitation.

Government is usually euphoric in announcing constricting of Commission for different services and categories in the name of facilitating administration and delivering justice. Constituting a Commission is meant to streamline functionality but the way these Commissions are treated not only denies the functionality but also means denial of justice.

The major problem is the inability of the state government to decide on ahead of the commission who commands widespread respect and the one who will receive wide acceptance. Governor Satyapal Malik is making too many moves both political as well as administrative but even he is yet to initiate a serious initiative for making SERC functional.

BJP-PDP, when they were in power, failed to reach an agreement on a sufficiently credible candidate. They were unable to even decide on any name to lead the commission. The Commission was formed with the objective of gaining the input of various individuals with a deep knowledge of the various aspects that go into the SERC debate.

Just as the parties were unable to reach an agreement on a leader for SERC, it is quite likely that the recommendations made by the commission will be able to bring the parties together. Time has come for the government to take a decision and make SERC functional. But at the very least, a permanent head of the Commission who is able to command the respect of all parties as well as of the broader population should be brought in.