The Punjab local bodies department has asked the state electricity regulatory commission to rationalise the public-lighting tariff, especially in the Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ludhaina, Patiala, and SAS Nagar municipal limits.
In a representation to the Punjab state electricity regulatory commission (PSERC), the department has said that the tariff charged for public lighting is `6.58 per unit, same as for commercial installations and railway traction, even though street-lighting is a public facility under the 12th Schedule of the Constitution. Its tariff should not be more than the domestic rate because public is not charged for it, is the argument given.
Commercial rate charged
The per-unit cost of public lighting is highlighted to be more than this figure for domestic, non-residential, industrial (small, medium and large supply), and agriculture consumer sections. It is highest of even Haryana, Chandigarh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala.
Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Patiala will pay `42.53 crore for public lighting in the last financial year (2012-13), and from 2008 to 2013, the four municipal corporations have paid total charges of `176.39 crore.
Patiala mayor Amarinder Singh Bajaj, first to raise the issue that brought the local bodies department into action, demanded that the tariff be on a par with the domestic rate. "The electricity bills for operating tube-wells for supplying drinking to the cities also needs to be lower. If it is rationalised, its cost will come down by 30 to 50%," said Bajaj.
The representation also questions the logic of imposing a rate more than price applicable to industrial consumers and equal to commercial users because public lighting involves no commercial activity. "I participated in the public hearing before the PSERC and I hope that it will rationalise the tariff. Powercom is charging unjustified tariff for the past eight years," said Punjab government's adviser major general VK Bhat (retd).
Were all lights functional?
The local bodies department has also objected to the annual minimum charges that Powercom has imposed. "It means all streetlights were functional on all 365 days of the year for 8 hours a day, and there was no defect in service line, no power cut, and no switching off on moonlit nights and other energy conservation measures," stated the communiqué to the PSERC, demanding that only actual consumption charges be collected.
The local bodies department will also ask for rationalised power tariff in municipal committees and councils, besides notified area committees.
Rs 176 cr
what Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Patiala municipal corporation paid from 2008 to 2013
Rs 42.53 cr
what the four MCs will pat for public lighting in the last financial year