Immediately after the panchayat polls, the people of West Bengal, except those living in Kolkata and Howrah, would face a power tariff hike. The last hike took place in January 2013.
State-run power utility West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company (WBSEDCL) will hike tariffs by 20 paise per unit. The average tariff of WBSEDCL is Rs. 5.93, which would stand revised to Rs. 6.13.
Incidentally, this would be the fifth hike in the last two years since the Mamata Banerjee government came to power in May 2011. With this new hike, the average hike in the rate of power tariff in the WBSEDCL area since the last two years would be 26%.
According to state government sources, a formal announcement in this regard would be made only in the third week of July 2013, when the results of the panchayat polls would be out. Though WBSEDCL was seeking a power tariff hike since the last couple of months, the state government was in favour of delaying the formal announcement till the end of July 2013.
WBSEDCL sources said the increase was inevitable considering the recent hike in the coal price by Coal India Ltd (CIL), which went for 11% rise in the price of lower quality coal from G6 to G17 grades.
In case of the semi-premium G5 grade, CIL kept the price intact and slashed the price by 12% in case of the four premium grades from G1 to G4. The major part of the coal used by thermal power plants is from G6 or lower grades, where the 11% price hike has been affected.The new rate would be effective from April 1, 2013, and in all probability the arrears would be recovered in 12 monthly instalments.
Interestingly, Mamata Banerjee, who swears by populist measures, was reluctant to hike power tariffs after she came to power in May 2011. But WBSEDCL almost got sandwiched between rising inputs cost and stagnant sales income and finally the chief minister had to yield to grim economics and allow the raise.
Finally, in December 2011 she gave the green signal to WBSEDCL. The utility ran so short of cash that CIL threatened to stop coal supply unless it cleared its huge accumulated dues. At that time the rate per unit price was just Rs. 4.27 and it was increased by 50 paise per unit to Rs. 4.71.