From Oct 1, power subsidy in Delhi for consumers who opt in: CM Kejriwal | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times

From Oct 1, power subsidy in Delhi for consumers who opt in: CM Kejriwal

By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
May 06, 2022 05:29 AM IST

Kejriwal said the move would ensure that the scheme benefitted the people who needed it.

From October 1, the power subsidy offered by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government will not automatically apply on the electricity bills of eligible Delhi consumers but for those who specifically opt for the scheme, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Thursday.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal(HT_PRINT)
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal(HT_PRINT)

Kejriwal said the move would ensure that the scheme benefitted the people who needed it.

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“We get appreciation for Delhi government’s free electricity scheme from all sections of the society. But, over the years, people have suggested that instead of providing subsidies to financially strong households, the money be used for schools and hospitals. Taking their demand into consideration, all consumers will be given a choice to opt for the scheme from October 1. On the basis of their choice, we will provide free electricity to those families who wish to seek the benefit of the scheme,” Kejriwal, who is also the national convener of AAP, said in a press briefing.

Kejriwal added the decision, taken in a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, was based on suggestions from residents.

A senior state power official said that the government’s expenditure on the power subsidy scheme has increased by 125.26% from its first year in 2015-16 till 2022-23. The total amount of power subsidies released in the first year (2015-16) of the AAP government was 1,442.76 crore, which increased to 2,939.99 crore in 2020-21. For 2022-23, the government has allocated about 3,250 crore for power subsidies.

“The number of electricity consumers in Delhi has grown by 82.97% in the 2011- 2021 decade, which means the number of consumers availing the power subsidy is also increasing on a year-on-year basis and more money is being required,” added the official who asked not to be named.

The Cabinet meeting, which made the power subsidy scheme optional, also approved the scheme to be continued -- an annual procedural requirement that comes after funds are allocated in the state Budget of that financial year.

A senior government functionary who attended Thursday’s meeting said the administration’s intention was not just to save money. “There were many who are availing the subsidy but have criticised the scheme. So, instead of automatically applying the subsidy on eligible electricity bills, the government will give it only to those who seek it from October 1,” the functionary said.

Domestic consumers get subsidies in two forms. Those consumers who use up to 200 units a month are given a 100% waiver (there are 3,039,766 such consumers at the moment. Consumers who use 201-400 units are given up to 800 in subsidy (there are 1,659,976 such consumers).

The power department has called a meeting next week of all distribution companies (discoms) in Delhi to chalk out the modalities of the revised scheme, and to draft a standard operating procedure (SOP). The task of asking people to opt for the power subsidy is likely to be carried out by the discoms.

There are 5,818,231 total electricity connections in Delhi. The Delhi government provides power subsidies to five categories of consumers — domestic consumers (4.69 million), anti-Sikh riot victims (758 consumers), agricultural consumers (10,676), and lawyers (4,899) whose chambers are within the court complex. The number of subsidised connections totals to 4,716,075 consumers across all categories.

Providing free and subsidised electricity and water have been the key poll planks of the Kejriwal-led AAP ever since it fought its first assembly elections in 2013. Since then, the party has always promised the two subsidy schemes in all the elections it has fought, with Kejriwal asserting in poll campaigns that the money to fund them comes by plugging corruption in governance.

“Government’s money is taxpayers’ money. What wrong are we doing if we are ending corruption, saving people’s money and giving back all the money to the people through such freebies?” Kejriwal has asserted in his poll campaigns.

After the AAP came to power in Punjab in March, chief minister Bhagwant Mann announced a similar power subsidy scheme which will start from July.

Consumers had mixed reactions to the move. Siddhartha Das, a consultant living in the city said, “It’s okay if the government makes it optional. But those who consume up to 200 units should automatically get the subsidy, because they need it the most.”

Experts said the decision was a good step towards rationalising the scheme.

Karthik Ganesan, fellow and director (Research Coordination) at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), said, “This is a good first step to rationalise subsidy. With the GST compensation payments winding down, Delhi has to tighten its belt. It might require a little more than merely asking people to opt in but put the onus on the consumer to establish the need for subsidy and then allow an opt in.”

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