Power bill waiver: Relief for many, concern for tenants
Amardeep Chauhan, 24, is elated.
Delhi government’s announcement that households that use up to 200 units of power a month will not have to pay for electricity means that his family can potentially save on power bills starting this month.
Between April and June, Chauhan’s family – six members who live in a two-room accommodation in south Delhi’s Tigri – have spent between ₹300 and ₹700 per month for their electricity consumption that ranged between 150 to 220 units a month, their bills showed. “If we act a little more prudent, we will come under the free power category,” said Chauhan, who works as a labourer in construction sites.
Inside the two-room accommodation, Chauhan’s family – who had migrated from Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district around 40 years ago – use two fans, one tube light, two CFL bulbs, a television and a refrigerator that stopped functioning recently.
Delhi has at least 4.9 million domestic power consumers. According to the government, in summers, around 35% consumers consume up to 200 units of electricity. But in winters, the share of this category goes up to 70%. According to average annual consumption in 2018-19, power distribution companies pegged around 2.6 million households that come under the 0-200 units bracket.
But, not everyone is as elated with the government’s subsidy plan.
Subhash Sharma, 62, who lives in neighbouring Deoli in a rented house, said his family consumed less than 100 units of electricity even during the hottest summer months. Despite that, in the months to come, he will have to shell out money. Sharma’s family is unlikely to benefit from the power bill waiver benefit.
Sharma, who is a fruit vendor, shares a two-room accommodation with six others in his family. The family uses two fans, two bulbs and a motor to pump in the government supplied water from the nearest pipeline to their residence.
Sharma’s family lives in a dilapidated house in Deoli village, which they share with two other migrant families. Each of them have an electricity sub-meter installed in their residence. A sub-meter is a system that allows landlords and house owners to bill tenants, usually in a multi-tenant property, for individually measured utility usage. In case of power supply, a sub-meter would reflect the exact amount of power consumed by each tenant.
Other than the peak summer months, the electricity consumption of the entire house remains less than 200 units. But for each electricity unit, the landlord charges them ₹7 round the year, Sharma and the tenants claimed.
“But what can be done when it is so difficult for a poor person to find a home in this city? In the end, one often agrees to pay higher rates for the electricity,” said Sharma’s neighbour Kalyani Mishra, a migrant from Bihar.
This is a common pattern across Delhi. where most tenants who rent relatively small accommodations, do not get a separate electricity meter and end up paying their landlords a fixed rate for each unit of electricity consumed. The fixed rate is often higher than the non-subsidised electricity rate set for different slabs.
As per the previous subsidy scheme, which was applicable between March, 2018 and July 31 this year, those who consumed between 0-200 units were charged ₹1 per unit instead of ₹3, and those using 201-400 units were paying ₹2.5 instead of 4.5.
While drafting the recent waiver scheme, senior government officials said, they have taken note of the problems tenants face.
On Friday, HT spoke to several such residents in areas that include Khanpur, Ambedkar Nagar, Sangam Vihar, Deoli, Tigri, Bhogal, Hari Nagar, Tilak Nagar, Vijay Nagar, Mukherjee Nagar, Munirka, Vasant Vihar and Mayapuri.
The households which consume less than 200 units per month were mostly located in slums and 20-30 square-yard houses which could be occasionally spotted in the maze of interconnected lanes in these colonies. In most cases, tenants paid fixed rates which varied between ₹6 -10, depending on the neighbourhood.
The Delhi government is now working out a “prepaid power bill” proposal to bring tenants in the city under the ambit of the exemptions, a senior government officials said.
PROPOSAL FOR TENANTS
In April 2017, ahead of the municipal elections in Delhi, Kejriwal had said that his government would extend the existing power subsidy scheme to tenants in the city as well.
In June 2018, the Delhi government drafted a proposal to provide portable meters for tenants – a system under which the power distribution companies could keep count of the actual consumption of each sub-unit and charge them the slab-based subsidised rates under the city’s power tariff. The planned project, however, failed to take off, senior officials in Delhi’s power department said.
“Now, we are working on a proposal of pre-paid electricity bills for Delhi’s tenants. We are also working on a policy that the proposal, when implemented, is followed by landlords across the city, for which it will need adequate legal backing,” said a senior official in the chief minister’s office.