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Delhi's power game: Who always wins?

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New Delhi, June 11: Power distribution has been playing an important role in Delhi's power tussle.

There are three discoms are operational in Delhi. Anil Ambani's Reliance Group owns BSES Yamuna Power Ltd (BYPL) and BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL). Tata Group owns Tata Power Distribution Limited (TPDL).

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal

Way back in 2012, incumbent Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) one of the main charges was that then chief minister Sheila Dikshit was hand in glove with power distribution companies (discoms) in looting Delhiites.

Kejriwal had exhorted Delhiites not to pay inflated electricity bills and he would even restore connections of those power supply was disconnected due to non-payment of bills.

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One of AAP's promises was to provide cheaper electricity to Delhi residents. It paid dividend and the party attained historic majority in 2015 Delhi Assembly elections after having ruled Delhi for 49 days in 2013.

Now in 2019, Arvind Kejriwal and AAP Government are being accused by Sheila Dikshit and Congress of looting Delhiites in connivance with the discoms.

Dikshit says that the discoms have unduly collected Rs. 7,401 crore from the power consumers as fixed charges in the last one and a half years.

"In the name of relief, the Kejriwal government had created a drama by installing lakhs of new power meters to openly benefit the power companies. It then increased the fixed charges by many folds on electricity bills, which used to be nominal before, and collected thousands of crores of rupees of the hard-earned income of the people of Delhi," the former Delhi chief minister told media on Saturday.

She said Kejriwal Government had indulged in open loot by putting unnecessary burden on the people in an indirect manner to favour the power distribution companies by collecting money in the name of fixed charges and pension funds.

Former Delhi Power Minister Haroon Yusuf gave details of Dikshit's charge.

He said that from 1st April, 2018 to 31st March, 2019, the BYPL had collected Rs 1139 crore in the name of fixed charges, BRPL collected Rs 2096 crores and TPDDL collected Rs 1474 crores from the people of Delhi.

Yusuf said that if the fund is calculated at this rate upto 31 July, 2019 an additional amount of Rs 1,569 crores would be added, and then the amount collected in the name of fixed charges would come to a total of Rs 6,278 crore.

He further said that the pension fund is also collected at the rate of 16.3 per cent, which amounts to Rs 1,023 crore, thus making the total amount needlessly collected from the people of Delhi comes to Rs 7,401 crore.

Till now, Kejriwal government has not refuted the Congress' charge.

Not only Congress, but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the past has also alleged that Kejriwal government is hand-in-glove with the discoms.

For example, last year Kejriwal government had opposed the proposed amendment to the Electricity Act 2003. Its observation was that the amendment would increase power tariff in Delhi and also result in complete control of the Centre over the power sector and total exclusion of the states.

However, Tiwari had said that central government was trying to bring a Bill for withdrawal of excessive meter load surcharge.

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"The opposition expressed by Kejriwal towards the proposed efforts of the Central government for providing cheap electricity to the people reflects that his government is hand in glove with the private companies to loot the people with extra ordinary high tariff," Tiwari said.

It's notable that the Amendments ask for removal of cross-subsidies within three years, and start with a 20 per cent cap on cross-subsidies, which means if any government wishes to provide any set of consumers a subsidy then it should be paid directly to the end-user via Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).

An expert tells OneIndia that it doesn't matter whichever government comes into power, the power consumers will always get peanut like reliefs and the winners will be discoms and those in power.

"There are so many technicalities involved in the power sector's rules and regulations, which a normal consumer fails to understand. People have a habit of paying the bill, without going into the details of various levied charges, to avoid disconnection. The discoms are there to make profits and they have many ways to fill their pockets without increasing tariffs. It's the duty of the government and regulatory authorities to keep an eye on the discoms to safeguard consumers' interest. Unfortunately, both sides scratch each other's backs and the consumer pays extra bucks," says the expert.

The TOI published a story last year citing a confidential report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), which indicted BYPL, BRPL, and TPDL on several accounts.

The CAG said the discoms inflated their losses by nearly Rs 8000 crore with an aim to later recover the amount from the consumers with the permission of the regulatory authority- Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC).

Interestingly, the same CAG report questioned the conduct of the DERC and government nominees on the board of three discoms.

The expert also says that not only the discoms and government officials but also the field staff of the companies dupe consumers by adopting various tactics in the name of disconnecting power supply of defaulter consumers.

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