The dark side of powering us up
The national capital seems to have become the site of a major power struggle, that between the discoms and the regulatory board on one side and the AAP-led Delhi government and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the other. With the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Authority (DERC) raising the power tariff by 8 per cent, practically offsetting the Rs 230 crore subsidy announced earlier by CM Arvind Kejriwal, and with power distribution companies threatening to impose a regime of prolonged longsheddings in the Capital, turf battles are set to become the order of the day. The situation is particularly precarious since even the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has issued a warning of non-supply to the big power defaulters, the Anil Ambani-owned BSES Yamuna Power Limited and BSES Rajdhani Power Limited, because the latter have not paid their dues to the government-owned electricity generation company. In the face of this unprecedented crisis, the DERC’s approval of 8 per cent tariff hike sits uncomfortably with the rest of the goings on, especially since in the wake of the CAG audit of discoms, the decision appears to be a rather hasty one. Not only does this add to the burden of the aam aadmi, who is already reeling under enormous rise in the prices of food items, groceries, and fuel, it is also an attempt to place unnecessary hurdles in the way of the AAP-led Delhi government, which is trying its best to bring in transparency in the hugely inefficient and corrupt power distribution sector.
While the L-G of Delhi had batted for the state government in the interest of the people and had ruled that without CAG audits, discoms would lose their licences, it seems now that the private power companies are not going to give up their pound of flesh without a long-drawn tug of war. The Delhi CM’s endeavour to revamp the power sector is unfortunately becoming ever more an uphill task with each passing day, with the discoms showing ‘cash constraints’ to escape paying its dues to power generating PSUs on the one hand and resorting to plunging the Capital in darkness to stop the CM-CAG duo from instilling a fair pricing system as far as electricity is concerned. This strategy of arm-twisting and blackmailing by Reliance Energy, in league with its stooges in the DERC, reeks of the sense of entitlement that crony capitalism has entrenched in this country at our expense Discoms have routinely indulged in cartelisation of power nationwide. Evidently, there will be war before there will be light.