Millennium Post

Let there be light

Let there be light
It’s the same old story. Power outages make peak summers unbearable and if that is not enough, power supply companies ask residents, commercial establishments and industries to shell out more cash. As if more revenue would improve power supply drastically. The situation is usually the opposite.

In Delhi for example, the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) has hiked power tariff, to be effective from 1 July, by a whopping 34 per cent. Of this close to eight per cent is surcharge, that will be pocketed by private distribution firms, the BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd, BSES Yamuna Power Ltd and Tata power. They had been pressing for the tariff hike citing records that they are incurring huge losses. The Delhi government has pleaded helplessness, saying that it has to abide by the verdict of the DERC, which is an independent body. All this is fine. Energy is expensive and it would be foolish to expect that increased population pressure, improved quality of living, developing lifestyles and industrial requirements of a growing economy would not affect demand for power. In Delhi for example, it may reach a whopping 5,500 megawatt in demand this season. Huge infrastructure and overhead constraints add to the need of tariff restructuring from time to time. But surely that means that service too must improve. If the distribution companies (discoms) are profiteering from the hike they must ensure that consumers get the due they are paying for. But that is not really the case. In Delhi itself, there have been long power outages for the last two weeks and that too when temperatures are rising and the weather is one of the worse in the season. If the power distribution companies fail to provide power in the peak season then why could they expect the customer to pay? Only last May, tariff was increased by 11 per cent. But have the discoms provided equivalent service? The resounding verdict is in the negative. If by putting the consumers in distress every summer, the discoms extract more surcharge from the regulatory authority and then fail in their due, it’s a matter of grave concern and amounts to blackmail.

The DERC has done its job of increasing tariff. Now it is upon the discoms to ensure that power supply remains un-interrupted across the city. Delhi is in many ways a pampered city because several administrative bodies look after it. If Delhi is on the receiving side of the power crisis, we can only shudder to think what is the situation in neighbouring states, specially Punjab and Haryana, which in crisis get the short shrift. A newspaper report quotes a senior expert in the field who has warned that unless supply matches the increased tariff and that too soon, it may become a law and order situation. He may not be too far from the truth.
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