<b>Despite High Court order why no CAG audit of discoms’ accounts?</b>

Despite High Court order why no CAG audit of discoms’ accounts?

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Open loot with government connivance

Second major power tariff hike in 11 months

Pramod Kumar

Privatisation of power distribution in Delhi proved to be a government licence to fleece people. Though, no promise made by the private companies at the time of privatisation in July 2002, has been kept, the state Congress government and the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Authority (DERC) , which are supposed to protect the interests of consumers, are worried only for the interest of private companies. The recent hike hit the people to the extent that some of them in West Delhi started withdrawing electricity connections citing inability to pay the bills.

The latest hike came on 10th anniversary of privatisation on July 2. It is a shock to the consumers who are already reeling under price spiral of essential commodities. Though, the Government announced to continue subsidy of Re1 per unit for the consumers using power upto 200 units, the fact is that it will benefit hardly 10 per cent consumers, as 90 per cent consumers use more than 200 units. Even in JJ clusters, more than 60 per cent consumers consume over 200 units per month.

Sixty per cent of the consumers, mostly middle class, utilise about 600 units per month. The tariff announced for this slab is the highest ie Rs 6.22. There are separate rates for the slabs of 200, 400, 600 and 1000 units. The companies have tactfully manipulated that if a person consuming 200 units crosses this limit even by 1 unit, he will have to pay according to the rate applicable to slab 0-400. He will not avail the subsidy rebate applicable for 200 units. This way the consumers who utilise even 1 unit more than 200 units will have to pay 2 times higher tariff. This is a clear fraud with the consumers.

Government says that the tariff has been increased by only 24 per cent. But fact is that it is up about 75 per cent. Just 11 months ago on August 26, 2011, the tariff was raised by 22 per cent. After that the DERC added 5 per cent in it as fuel surcharge and later raised it by another 2 per cent. Though the said fuel surcharge of 7 per cent was removed, it added Power Purchase Cost Adjustment Surcharge (PPCAS) of 8 per cent. Therefore, since August 2011, power tariff is officially up by 22+ 24 = 46 per cent. But practically, it is up by 127 per cent. In addition, 8 per cent PPCAS will be charged on the total bill.

Fuel surcharge at the rate of 7 per cent from January 2012, 4 per cent to 14 per cent from April 2012 is also being recovered. For the last one year, the power companies are serving notice to the domestic and commercial consumers to get their load increased. The domestic consumers are told to deposit Rs 1200 for it. Apart from it the fixed charge in the bill has been increased from Rs 30 to Rs 100.

In Delhi, power tariff is higher than Gurgaon, Noida, Bangalore and Chennai. In Gurgaon, it is Rs 4.50 per unit up to the slab of 400 units, whereas in Delhi it is now Rs 5.19 per unit. Despite more power theft in neighbouring states the tariff there is lower than Delhi.  The loot does not stop here. Power companies are adopting various methods to fleece the people. One of them is to fix separate rates of power for peak and non-peak hours.

At the time of privatisation in 2002, all the three companies were given relief of Rs 3450 crore. The assets of Delhi Vidyut Board of about Rs 10 thousand crore were also given to the power companies on lease of Re1 only. Delhi Government also gave a bailout package of Rs 500 crore for compensating the companies, whereas the former Chairman of DERC Bijender Singh had found in early 2011 that the power companies have earned profit of Rs 5200 crore. In view of this profit, Shri Singh had advised for 20 per cent reduction in power tariff. After his retirement, PD Sudhakar became the Chairman of DERC and immediately after taking over, he increased power tariff by 22 per cent on August 26, 2011.

“While privatising power, the Government had mentioned about many benefits of it. The first benefit was that more than one company can supply power, which will lead to a competition due to which the rates shall go down. But since 2002 the power tariff has been increased five times. Before privatisation the power theft was about 55 per cent which now came down to 9-12 per cent. After preventing power theft by 1 per cent the companies earn profit of Rs 50 crore. This way the companies are earning Rs 2250 crore per month. Secondly, the companies are also earning profit by selling power to other states. The companies should be brought under the purview of RTI so that the Information Commissioner may also exercise control. The government’s silence is encouraging this loot of consumers,” alleged Delhi BJP chief Shri Vijendra Gupta.

 “The DERC in league with the Delhi Government seems to be working full time for the benefit of discoms. The Chief Minister steps into fully endorse the increase,” said East Delhi RWA Federation president Anil Bajpai. VN Bali of Ram Vihar RWA said: “We have been opposing the earlier power tariff hike till a full CAG audit is done of the accounts of distribution companies. The Government is depriving people of their right to live.” Sheila Dikshit shamelessly justified the tariff hike saying that the inflation and price rise are an “international phenomena” and “the incomes of people also have gone up”.  Agitated BJP has demanded an enquiry by an impartial and independent agency into the entire power tariff hike.

There is complete lack of transparency in the way the state government and DERC are dealing with the private distribution companies in Delhi. There are reports that discoms are earning huge profit but instead of reducing the tariff there is repeated hike. It is another scam. About one year back the Delhi High Court had directed for audit of the accounts of private companies by CAG but there is no progress. This raises serious questions. Why the state Congress government is reluctant to order CAG audit of the discoms’ accounts. The obvious reason of this delay is that either the Congress government is giving time to the discoms to manipulate their accounts or the government fears that the CAG audit will fully expose their misdeeds.a

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