iconimg Saturday, September 05, 2015

Brajendra K Parashar, Hindustan Times
Lucknow, January 14, 2013
Some six years ago, the then chief secretary Neera Yadav kicked up a storm with her order calling for installation of energy meters on the premises of all power employees.

The employees hit the streets, threatened strike and did everything to ensure the diktat was not complied with.

However, they won't be as lucky this time round.

Reason: The riders which come along with the centre's bailout package that the state government has decided to accept to bring around a financial turnaround of the debt-ridden UP Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL).

The package not only requires mandatory increase in power tariff every year but also installation of meters on premises of all consumers who pay fixed monthly charges regardless of the amount of energy used by them.

And for the centre to okay its request for the financial bailout package, the state government and UPPCL would have to chart out a time-bound plan for metering of all categories of consumers.

The government would have to submit such a plan to the centre-level monitoring committee (CLMC) through the state-level monitoring committee (SLMC).

Not only this, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), an apex body, will monitor the progress of the plan on a sixth-monthly basis.

It is being said the UPPCL may find it daunting to bring all the unmetred consumers in the net of metered supply not only because it may be politically unpalatable but also because it will require a large number of meters.

In UP, the unmetered consumers are basically rural domestic consumers and farmers-the politically sensitive categories.

Information available with the UPPCL shows that a total of 52.87 lakh consumers, nearly half the number of total consumers, get electricity without a meter in the state.

The Purvanchal (Varanasi discom) leads with 19,33,781 unmetered consumers followed by the Paschimanchal (Meerut), the Madhyanchal (Lucknow) and the Dakshinanchal (Agra) discoms.

Significantly, of the total 52.87 lakh unmetered consumers, around 51 lakh are in villages only and of them 43.5 lakh are rural domestic consumers, 96,000 rural commercial consumers and 6.36 lakh private tube wells owned by farmers.

Around one lakh power employees and pensioners also do need to have a meter and they can consume as much power as they like and pay just a fixed monthly amount.

Though the Electricity Act, 2003 clearly says that no licencee shall supply electricity after the expiry of two years from the appointed date, except through installation of a correct meter, the number of unmetered consumers in UP has only been rising every year.

The action plan that UPPCL managing director AP Mishra had submitted to the regulator a few months ago said it would take the corporation 10 years to bring all consumers under the net of meted power supply. The regulator was shocked to see the 10-year action plan.

"But now, they would have to revise the plan and provide meters to all unmetered consumers within next three-four years as a condition of the centre's financial restructuring scheme," said an official.