Another wake-up call for our babus
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India Shashi Kant Sharma has put his finger on the exact spot that is the source of Delhi’s unending power woes – utter callousness on the part of Lutyens’ bureaucracy and its chronic inability to punish the offenders and unburden the inflation-stricken aam aadmi. Sharma’s admonition of the Capital’s babus, in a letter to L-G Najeeb Jung, spells out not just the nature of the problem but also how government officials have themselves corroded public trust in them. Not only has the CAG highlighted how bureaucrats have been lackadaisical about facilitating regular audits of the private discoms, he has in fact underlined how they have strayed from the basic function of monitoring regularly the production targets and actual outputs, as well as the apathy towards the routine breaches by BSES companies to comply with either supply standards, or being able to pay up the dues to the state-owned generation companies in time. That CAG audit of private discoms is a must to acquire or retain licence, particularly after SC directive, has been effectively forgotten by the bureaucrats not within only the power ministry, but also elsewhere. In fact, Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, towing the discom line, is pushing tariff hike even though CAG audit is pending. Hence, the CAG’s poking of the Capital’s bureaucrats is also a reminder of how unethical discoms exploit this tendency.
This newspaper has been most vociferously advocating the need to rein in the delinquent power discoms, particularly the Anil Ambani-owned BSES Rajdhani and Yamuna, responsible for supplying electricity to over two-thirds of Delhi’s residents. Time and again, we have highlighted how discoms have been flouting norms, pushing uncouth tariff hikes and placing unsustainable strain on the aam aadmi, who is already burdened with sky-rocketing prices of food and fuel. Now that the CAG has taken officials and discoms to task and underscored their non-cooperation, general ignorance of laws and undiluted arrogance. Absence of scrutiny and the culture of crony capitalism have until now ensured that discoms and bureaucrats are allowed to go scot-free despite repeat offences, including defaulting on dues, holding government and public to ransom by threatening mass blackouts and hiking tariffs even in the case of acquiring the power supplies at a highly subsidised rate. Evidently, privatisation of power sector, instead of alleviating Delhi’s power woes, has only led to more mismanagement and private profiteering, at the cost of disgruntlement among the denizens, mostly from the poorer classes.