THE recent power tariff hike in Delhi, which becomes effective from July 2, comes as a rude shock to hapless consumers already suffering the pangs of mounting inflation. The 24 per cent average hike in power tariff for domestic consumers is doubly painful as it is the highest tariff increase among domestic, commercial and industrial consumers and that it comes close on the heels of a tariff hike of 22 per cent for all categories of consumers done in August 2011. The Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) had not spared the consumers even during the intervening period. It announced a tariff increase of 5 per cent in February 2012 and another 1 to 2 per cent in May 2012 to match the power purchase cost of the distribution companies (Discoms).
The reasons mentioned by the DERC behind the above power tariff hikes show it in very bad light and need to be strongly deplored. DERC has reportedly ascribed the tariff hike to the need to offset the combined deficits of the three Discoms which had been estimated at Rs 6000 crore. The Discoms are responsible for collection of power revenue from all sections of consumers and to this end, they, alongwith DERC had been vested with penalising powers as per Electricity Act 2003. Clearly it is tantamount to making the honest pay for the misdeeds of the dishonest. Instead of exercising their power under the provisions of Electricity Act 2003, the Discoms and DERC have passed on the burden of loss to the honest consumers, a large chunk of which belongs to the domestic category.
The power sector reforms saw the creation of Regulatory Commissions at the central and state levels. The prime function of these regulatory commissions was to protect the interests of consumers of power by fixing tariff on a rational basis. It is a shameful commentary on the functioning of DERC that the present tariff hike is being justified as a requirement of meeting Discom losses. If Discoms are unable to recover the sale proceeds of power from consumers, they need to be penalised by DERC. But here DERC has subsidised the Discoms while hitting hard the consumers. Is the DERC a protector of consumers or a saviour of Discoms?
As per the new rates, a domestic consumer will be charged Rs 3.70 per unit for the first 200 units of power instead of the current Rs 3. Consumers having a monthly usage of upto 400 units will have to pay Rs 4.80 per unit of power. For consumption above 400 units, Rs 6.40 per unit will be charged instead of current Rs 5.70. To compound problems for the consumers, DERC has announced separate rates for power supplied to DMRC and DJB. For Delhi Metro, rates have been increased from Rs 3.80 per unit to Rs 5.00 per unit and for Delhi Jal Board from Rs 5.60 per unit to Rs 7.25 per unit for load upto 10 kilowatt. For load between 10 kilowatt and 100 kilowatt, one unit of power would cost Rs 6.60 while Rs 8.00 has been fixed per unit for load beyond 100 kilowatt. These quantum hikes will directly impact metro and water rates. The upward impact on water rates will be in line with the National Water Policy of 2012 under finalisation by Government of India, in which water rates are proposed to be fixed on cost plus basis.
It requires no great analysis to see through the evil nexus between the Discoms and DERC. In a country where corruption is endemic, this should not come as a big surprise. But what shocks the citizens is that such scandalous things should be going on in the wake of loud voices presently being heard against corruption in politics and bureaucracy. The citizens of Delhi have a right to know the complete basis of this power tariff hike. The government of NCT of Delhi must bring out a white paper on this tariff hike which smacks of corrupt dealings between DERC and Discoms and is a backbreaking step for the poor and lower class consumers of Delhi.
The tariff of electricity being fixed based on cost of purchase of power by Discoms makes sense. But fixation of tariff to progressively offset the deficit of Discoms caused by electricity theft makes absolutely no economic sense. How long will the honest go on subsidising the profligacy and criminality of the dishonest? The aam admi wants an answer.