Fulfilling two major poll promises, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on Wednesday slashed power tariffs by 50% and announced free water to every household with a functional meter.
Under the scheme that will take off from March 1 and cost the exchequer around Rs 1,670 crore annually, households in Delhi that consume an average 400 units of power per month will see their bills halved while those who use 20,000 litres of water a month will pay nothing for it.
“Jo kaha so kiya. Bijli half rate par aur pani muft kiya. Baki wade bhi pure karenge. Bas aap apna sath banaye rakhiyega (we’ve done as we said. Power at half rate and free water. We will fulfil our other promises too),”tweeted chief minister Arvind Kejriwal after the decision was taken at a cabinet meeting.Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said the power tariff reduction would benefit 36 lakh or 90% of consumers. Similarly, the water subsidy will reach 18 lakh families with functional meters. However, if consumption crosses the 400 units or 20,000 litres mark, then full payment will have to be made.
The power subsidy will cost the government Rs 70 crore in March and Rs 1,427 crore for the next financial year. The free water supply will cost Rs 21 crore next month while Rs 250 crore has been set aside for the same for 2015-16.
While the water subsidy will run for five years, as promised in the AAP manifesto, Sisodia said the power relief will continue till the Comptroller and Auditor General completes its audit of the finances of power distribution companies — ordered by AAP during its first 49-day stint in power. “Relief in electricity bills will continue even in the eventuality of any tariff hike by the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission,” said a senior government official.
Kejriwal and power minister Satyendra Jain met CAG Shashi Kant Sharma earlier in the day to discuss the status of the audit.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently indirectly criticised AAP’s move of doling out freebies — it had announced similar decisions last year too — by saying parties make these promises in states dependent on other states for electricity. The Delhi BJP termed it an eyewash.
“The money should be used for development rather than providing subsidy,” said Rajiv Kakria of the Greater Kailash RWA.
Critics said giving free water would encourage wastefulness in a city where the commodity is already in short supply. Also, the fact that 14 lakh households, particularly those in slums and unauthorised colonies, don’t have piped water network means the benefit wouldn’t reach those who need it the most — the poor.