Shri Vijay Goel, the BJP general secretary, has been at the forefront of fighting for the issue that is causing maximum amount of heartburn to the citizens of Delhi – high electricity tariffs and the dodgy billing methods being used by the discoms. He makes a strong case for a CAG audit of the discoms and lowering of tariffs. Organiser representative Anoop Verma spoke to him regarding the problems of Delhiites with regard to power and water. Excerpts:
What is your view of the electricity situation in Delhi?
At the time of privatisation in 2002, the Congress government in Delhi had promised two things – 24/7 electricity supply and lower power tariffs. But the Government has failed to keep both the promises. The privatisation has resulted in hundreds or thousands of crores of public assets being handed over to the two private discoms at throwaway prices. The result is that the public is suffering from high tariffs and bad quality of electricity supply. There is no check on the discoms, as there is rampant corruption. In this corruption, all three are involved, the Delhi government, the discoms and the DERC. The DERC is like puppet in the hands of the private discoms. The public is totally helpless.
The discoms claim that they are running into huge losses. Do you subscribe to that view?
If they are running into losses, they should withdraw from the business. The Delhi Government, which holds 49 per cent equity in the discoms, can issue re-tenders so that more players can get in and there is competition, which will lead to efficiency and lower tariffs. At the time of privatisation, it had been claimed by the Delhi Government that the private companies would stop the electricity theft and pave way for lower tariffs. This has not happened. Instead of taking action against the discoms, the Delhi Government is using the official machinery to defend the high tariffs. Instead of being concerned about the welfare of the people, the Government led by Sheila Dikshit is concerned about welfare of the discoms.
If the BJP were in power, what would it do to bring down the electricity tariffs?
This government has not improved the power generation capacity in the capital by even a single megawatt. We will take steps to start generating more power. Can you imagine that in our country, power plants with thousands of megawatts of generation capacity have been left idle because natural gas and coal are not available due to the corruption in gas and coal sectors? If the BJP comes to power, the first thing we will do is to improve the production of electricity. We will also order CAG audit of the discoms; this will automatically result in more transparency and contribute to the tariffs coming down. We will take proactive steps to curb electricity theft. I have full faith that the BJP will succeed in bringing down the electricity tariffs to a large extent.
What steps should be taken to help those who are unable to pay their electricity bills due to any reason?
The poor men living in Delhi have no idea that the price of electricity will go so high suddenly. If a person is unable to pay his electricity bills due to unemployment or low income, what is he supposed to do? The Government should have a scheme to subsidise the electricity bills of those who are unable to settle the bills on their own. But the government does not have funds to back such pro-people schemes, as all the public money has been looted in scams like the Commonwealth Games.
During the protest outside Delhi Power Regulator office, Arvind Kejriwal said that BJP had failed to make public the DERC recommendation in May 2010 about reducing power tariff? Would you like to comment on this statement?
We welcome all those who are fighting for cheaper and better electricity situation in Delhi. But Kejriwal’s allegations are baseless. Everyone knows that Kejriwal is a new player in this field. The BJP has been fighting for the cause of Delhi’s citizens for last 30 years, whereas Kejriwal has just arrived. We have created the atmosphere for power hike agitations; it is not Kejriwal who has done that. He is only trying to gain advantage of the political atmosphere that has been created by BJP. By just connecting two connections, Kejriwal thinks that he can solve the power problems of entire Delhi! I would say that he is completely misguided. On that day at the DERC, there were 8000 people who had gathered to support BJP’s protest against high tariffs. Kejriwal arrived with just four persons. Why does Kejriwal need to come on BJP’s platform? Obviously because he does not have the support. Out of politeness only we invited him to our stage, but he took advantage of our courtesy and levelled false allegations against us.
Many anti-corruption activists are trying to tar the Congress and the BJP with the same brush. Why is this happening? What kind of steps should the BJP take to safeguard its reputation?
During the tenure of Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh, the corruption has reached the highest possible levels. You get to hear about corruption in the tune of 1,86,000 crore for coalgate, 1,76,000 crore for 2G, 76000 crore for CWG scam. There is no corruption in the BJP-ruled states like Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. During the NDA government there were no major corruption scandals. The difference between BJP and Congress is that BJP immediately takes up corrective measures whenever there are allegations of corruption against anyone of its leaders. There does not exist any CAG or PAC report against our leaders.
What should be done to prevent scams like Coalgate and others from happening in the future?
Lokpal Bill. The first thing we need to do to prevent corruption is bring in the Lokpal Bill. The BJP supports the Lokpal Bill. We also need to send out the message that anyone who indulges in corruption will not be able to go scot-free. You start giving exemplary punishments to the corrupt. This will automatically deter people in high places from getting involved into corrupt activities. The problem with the current government is that there is no government at all. The corrupt understand that there is no government in place to punish them and that is why they keep looting larger and larger amount of public wealth.
What is your view of the new FDI policy being proposed by the central government?
Delhi is a trader city; when you bring in a FDI policy, you are endangering the livelihood of the traders. Even for the common citizens, things are not going to get cheaper and the farmers are not going make any extra gains due to the FDI. The large multinationals that will gain entry into the country due to the FDI policy will pay something to the farmers in the first year, but from the second year onwards, they will stop making any payment. In the name of quality control, they will start rejecting the produce of the farmers, leading to the farmers suffering huge losses.
What kind of policy should the government come up with to bring growth to the retail industry in the country?
At BJP, we don’t subscribe to the idea that only foreign multinationals like Walmart can bring improvements in the retail sector. We believe that the entrepreneurs in the country can do a much better job. For improvement in the retail sector, the Government has to concentrate on creating better infrastructure in our rural areas. The farmers need access to good warehouses, where they can store their produce. The infrastructure for transporting the agricultural produce from rural areas to urban areas also has to be made better. When BJP comes to power after the next elections, our agenda will be to develop the country on the lines of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. The people in the country should look at BJP’s track record for governance, which has been quite good.