The hike in power rates for domestic consumers in Mumbai’s eastern suburbs of Mulund and Bhandup, Thane, Navi Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra, stayed by the state government before the Assembly polls, may now come into force.
The state power regulator, the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC), has shot down the government’s demand for revision of its August 17 order that cut tariff for malls, multiplexes, builders and centrally air-conditioned schools and raised it for domestic consumers, charitable hospitals, civic schools and small shops and industries.
The move could impact a majority of Maharashtra’s domestic consumers, though most of Mumbai, barring some eastern suburbs, gets its power from private companies.
The MERC had approved an average tariff hike of 4 per cent for the year 2008-09, though the state-run power distributor Mahavitaran or MSEDC had asked for a 36 per cent hike.
Fearing popular discontent ahead of the October 13 polls, the state government in August this year stayed the order.
The state also stayed Reliance Infrastructure’s decision to raise tariff by an average of 7 per cent and asked the MERC to probe “if the power company had discharged its duty in the most economical manner so as to not put unnecessary burden on consumers.” The MERC admitted its plea and has constituted an inquiry into the company’s transactions over the last six years.
In its response to the state on the Mahavitaran issue, the MERC has quoted from opinions it sought from the Attorney General of India and the state Advocate General. But what has raised eyebrows is the timing the MERC chose to make the response public. It posted it on its website late Wednesday evening, though the letter is signed September 23, 2009.
MERC secretary Sanjay Sethi said the timing had nothing to do with politics. Energy Minister Sunil Tatkare said he would oppose MERC’s stand. Mahavitaran MD Ajoy Mehta said the company would start billing its consumers as per MERC’s new order, with retrospective effect from August 1.