Two years of AAP: Govt slashes power bills by half but more needs to be done
They had to sweat it out in peak summers last year because of frequent power outages and even mourned the death of a resident electrocuted by live wires dangling outside his verandah – a usual scene in slums and illegal colonies.
Yet, when it comes to electricity, most of the two lakh-odd residents of South Delhi’s Ambedkar Nagar seem to be happy with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. The reason: Low power bills.
“Our power bills have come down and that’s a good thing Kejriwal (Delhi chief minister) has done,” said Rupesh Dhaiya, a resident of Dakshinpuri in south Delhi’s Amebdkar Nagar, a reserved (SC) assembly constituency and a key vote base of the AAP.
Residents said power outages are common in the area. But they don’t mind it. “Even on Republic Day, the entire colony didn’t have power. The same thing happened a few days later. We have inverters, so it doesn’t matter much,” said Savitri Rai, who lives in her own house in Khanpur colony.
Rai isn’t complaining as she has to pay less on her power bills now. “In summers, our bills have come down to Rs 1,300 from Rs 2,000 and in winters, we pay Rs 600 instead of Rs 800,” she said.
With frequent power cuts, summers were not pleasant last year. There was no shortage of electricity but outages occurred mostly due to “local faults”, officials said. “The government may blame distribution companies for the local faults. But it has completely avoided pulling up Delhi Transco Limited (DTL), which is under its jurisdiction for repeated delays in its ongoing projects. As a result, Delhi’s transmission network is ageing and breaks down frequently,” said Pramod Deo, former Chairman, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC).
Tenants are angry
The AAP government’s sop of 50% subsidy on power tariffs for those who consume up to 400 units seems to be popular among people who live in their own houses.
But tenants are peeved. At least 30% (Census 2011) of all families in Delhi live in rented accommodations and this section claims the benefits are yet to reach them.
“It (slashing power tariffs) made no difference in our lives. Our landlord charges us the same amount of Rs 9 per unit for the electricity we consume,” said Shahbuddeen, a resident of Laxmi Nagar.
HT visited areas such as Sangam Vihar, Deoli, Chittaranjan Park and Anand Vihar and found that almost all tenants complained of the same problem. In most cases, the owner’s house has the main meter and tenants have sub-meters. “The bill comes as one and ideally we should be charged as per the mandated slabs. But that doesn’t happen as the rent agreement expects each tenant to pay for their consumed units, based on the highest tariff, with 10 per cent surcharge and service tax,” said Zinnia Ray, a resident of CR Park.
“I and my flat mate consume only about 150 units a month and according to the government’s promise, I should be paying Rs 2 per unit. But we are paying Rs 8 or so,” she added.
However, be it owners or tenants, Delhiites are happy that tariffs have not increased in the past two years. Till 2014, power tariffs were hiked for four consecutive years.
A glance at the AAP government’s five-point ‘action plan’ in the power sector reveals it has taken small steps in four of its promises. The party’s manifesto promised reduction of electricity bills by half, CAG audit of power discoms, Delhi’s own power plant, introduction of competition among discoms and Delhi as a solar city.
While the first one was fulfilled within 11 days of the party coming to power, the CAG audit of power discoms is sub judice.
The promise of making Delhi a solar city is gradually being fulfilled with the government notifying the ‘Delhi Solar Energy Policy, 2015’ in June 2016. But it is yet to release the list of empanelled companies so that domestic consumers can get solar panels on their rooftops and avail 30% subsidy offered by the government.
Two of its promises – that Delhi would have its own power plant outside the capital and introduction of competition among discoms - are yet to be fulfilled and may take years before they turn into a reality.