Burdening citizens for ugly power play
The non-allocation of power subsidy in the Delhi interim budget effective from 1 April is a staunchly anti-people move that reeks of Congress and BJP connivance to discredit the brave and thoughtful gesture on the part of the former AAP-led government in the state. Now under President’s rule, it seems that Delhi’s fate has once again landed in the ungenerous hands of the same set of people responsible for sending the utility bills through the roof, even as they shamelessly aid on the private sector discoms to make more profit at the expense of the government coffer and the aam aadmi. The interim budget for 2014-15 has made no room to accommodate the halving of electricity tariffs by the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP regime that was its new year gift to the beleaguered inflation-burdened denizens of Delhi, and has not extended the Rs 363 crore power subsidy that is applicable till 31 March, a grant that has benefitted almost 28 lakh out 34.6 lakh power consumers in the national capital. In fact, this cowering before the power discoms, particularly the Anil Ambani-led Reliance that owns the two BSES companies that owe the state-owned power generation company NTPC thousands of crores against bulk purchase of electricity, is indicative of a deep and unholy nexus between the politicians, bureaucrats and corporates which has been the bane of Lutyens’ Delhi for the longest time. Power discoms have also strongly opposed the previous government’s move to recommend CAG audit for the power discoms to instill a semblance of transparency in the purchase and distribution electricity. This, despite the huge debts that the companies have accrued, causing massive losses to the state exchequer and blatantly transferring the extra burden to the common people of Delhi.
Evidently, the political establishment represented by the Congress-BJP setup at the Centre and in the state has a stake in maintaining the status quo and not let the residents of the national capital have any relief. It is extraordinary how the Centre inevitably bows before its corporate masters, whether it is in the case of gas pricing, which has been doubled in one sweep for the next fiscal to please Mukesh Ambani-led gas giant RIL, or once again de-subsidise power rates, to appease the Anil Ambani-led BSES companies. This crony capitalism practiced at the highest echelons of our political and corporate sector is reminiscent of the artificially manipulated power crisis that wreaked havoc the US state of California a decade and half ago, when Enron, the discredited conglomerate engineered problems and issued big blackout threats, in a fashion not dissimilar to the warnings issued by the power discoms in Delhi. The government should have directed its ire towards these serial defaulters, instead of taking it out on the common people. Unlike the US federal regulator which recommended punishment to the discoms after audits brought the manipulations out in the open, the Indian authorities have only batted for the corporates.