Relief for Delhi’s citizens
Delhi’s residents will heave a sigh of relief. On Thursday, the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) rejected the 18-21 percent hike in electricity tariffs demanded by private power distributing companies (DISCOMS) and announced “no change in existing tariff.” The DERC’s decision to not raise power tariffs came amidst constant pressure from the Aam Aadmi Party government. Besides pressure from the Delhi government, it was a recent audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), which probably forced the DERC’s hand in the matter. In its audit, the power regulator claimed it discovered an estimated profit of Rs 453 crore by three DISCOMS in the city against the Rs 2,202 crore financial loss claimed by them in 2015-16.
Moreover, the DERC also pulled up DISCOMS for purchasing costly power from various power stations without its prior approval and claimed that audit of these records will further reduce the estimated loss of over Rs 12,000 claimed by DISCOMS. The sight of current Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal cutting electrical wires in his opposition to overcharged power bills for the common man over two years ago remains etched in the minds of Delhi’s poor. Notwithstanding the legality of his actions, the sight of a public figure standing for the common man is what catapulted his party to the forefront of electoral politics in the city. Kejriwal’s battle with the power distribution companies went from the courts to the doorstep of the then Central ruling dispensation. The AAP-led Delhi government has welcomed the DERC’s decision but reiterated its demand to reduce the power tariff. “The government had conveyed its view to the DERC that in the wake of the reported findings of the CAG in the media, which have not been disputed by any concerned party so far, the electricity tariffs should be reduced.
The government is also of the view that the Regulatory Assets being demanded by the distribution companies are highly inflated, and the DERC should completely scrap these,” said Satyendra Kumar Jain, Delhi’s Power Minister. Suffice to say, the battle rages on. Coming back to the CAG, in a damning report, it had said that there is a significant scope for reducing tariffs in the city. The report further found that the three DSICOMS in the capital inflated their dues to be recovered from consumers by a whopping Rs 8,000 crore. The CAG audit had raised several pertinent questions on the way power distribution companies have been carrying out their day to day business, often without the requisite transparency, and egregious instances of conflict of interest.
The report also raised scathing questions over the conduct of Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) and government nominees on the board of the three DISCOMS. The CAG audit endorses the claims of the Aam Aadmi Party and other activists that high power tariffs in Delhi were unjustified. It is high time that the power companies in Delhi stopped playing this nefarious power game and give the people of Delhi power at a reasonable cost.