Millennium Post

Sanctioning power loot, burdening us

All-out efforts to bury Delhi’s hapless aam aadmi under piles of upped tariffs are on, of course with the collusion of the regulatory appendages of the present government and the private discoms. Despite their much-controvertible accounts now under CAG scanner, profit sharks that are the electricity distribution companies have practically coerced the state power regulator, Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC), to hand them in a platter Rs 8,000 crore over the next few years, which would in turn be collected by burdening the consumers further. DERC is planning to hike power tariffs as a counter to the completely illegitimate waiver to the private power discoms, including the two Reliance-owned BSES companies and Tata Power. This is nothing but shameless conniving with and being officially blind to the corruption in private sector, becoming a stellar example of crony capitalism at its worst. The Appellate Tribunal of Electricity (APTEL), in the pathetic garb of financial restructuring, is practically offsetting the crores of bad debts that discoms owe to state-owned generation companies and banks. Instead of coming down heavily on the serial defaulters, which are the two BSES companies that have accrued provisional revenue gap of Rs 5,206 crore for BRPL and Rs 2,855 crore for BYPL in 2011-12, figures still subject to CAG audit, DERC and APTEL are batting for the profit sharks. This is not unlike the reprehensible state-directed practice of corporate debt restructuring by public sector banks, which is basically a method to allow huge private sector companies to get away with filching staggering amounts of public money, causing ever-growing losses to the public exchequer.

    Delhi power discoms, in addition to defaulting on payments, have also severely inconvenienced consumers by imposing long hours of load-shedding, immersing swathes of Capital in darkness and power crisis. The big black-out threat posed by Reliance and Tata Power in Delhi, following warnings from NTPC of stopping power supply to the private retail distributer, is a mechanism to arm-twist the government and the public to fall in line. Manipulating power availability by tinkering with the supplier-distributer network, as well as engineering a false crisis to increase tariffs, have been the age-old practice that lays bare the state-corporate nexus to fleece ordinary citizens of their hard-earned money. Not just in Delhi, in other metropolitan cities such as Mumbai, retail power discoms are minting money at the expense of government-controlled power generating companies and whole-sellers. In fact, incentivising abundant production of electricity by the generation companies would do lot more to both unburden the consumers and disallow the retail giants to use the opportunity to drain both the government and the tax-payers of their money. Manipulating tariff rates by coercing the regulator is, therefore, an expected maneuver which the state should have anticipated and prevented, instead of egging it on. It is evident in whose favour the state-sponsored loot has been sanctioned.
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