Power scam: Sheila must go
by Sandhya Jain on 10 Nov 2009 12 Comments

After the Sheila Dikshit ‘sarkar’ offered consumers ‘relief’ with a promise that electricity bills will rise 100 percent every three years (I will explain), I was alerted to check the increase over the past three years, taking my household as indicative of the true story of privatisation. The exercise was a lesson in how blindly we trust (are forced to trust) those in charge of vital aspects of our lives.


The BSES Rajdhani bill for February 2006 was Rs 870/- for 329 units consumed. In June 2006, it jumped to Rs 2320/- for 754 units. In February 2008 it was Rs 1160/- for 425 units; and in June 2008 it became Rs 5580/- for 1553 units! This was when Delhi Government was supposedly subsidizing the company.


Bills rose algebraically thereafter, in terms of units consumed (how can a two-person family increase consumption?) and total charged; it climaxed to a handsome Rs 16588/- for 3639 units in October, when public patience exploded at this outright thuggery.


Suffering citizens will be familiar with the way BSES Rajdhani abandons complaint centres during power breakdowns; how it harasses in lodging a complaint. I never lodged a complaint because I didn’t have the physical stamina to pursue a criminally obdurate system.


Readers can see something is seriously amiss. A just solution seems likely to evade us because the Supreme Court deemed electronic metres worthy of installation. Things will improve only when free electricity to Ministers, MPs, babus stops, and everyone pays the same amount for the same consumption. In an era when government is plugging privatisation, what is the justification for this socialist-era freebie? 


We need an honest investigation into who is gaining in the electricity scam. When an inept politician like former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda can amass several thousand crores in a few months, we can envisage the assets of more adept practitioners of politics. The gravy train must be derailed. Only then will politicians realise that a company that cannot ensure voltage stabilization is not fit to operate in the city. BJP has woken up to political loot of natural resources in Orissa; it must do its homework for the capital’s suffering citizenry as well.


If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seriously hopes India will become at least a respectable regional power, he must realise that electricity is a ‘must have’ in modern life, and not a luxury that can be disconnected for non-payment of rapacious bills. He must end the farce and ask the Delhi Government to resume charge of electricity supply without delay. Infrastructure can be improved by charging consumers a separate cess for modernisation, on area-wise basis where infrastructure is actually upgraded. These occasional payments work with the Delhi Jal Board.


To conclude with Mrs. Sheila Dikshit’s idea of relief from inflated bills, the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) permitted BSES to charge consumers a hefty 30% extra for the period June to August, over the corresponding period last year. This means the company can bill us 90% - 100% extra every three years! Do incomes rise in this proportion in any economy, let alone this era of recession when jobs are lost daily, and no one cares? What about the over-billing of the past three years – where did the loot go?


The promise of post and pre-audit checks in the case of increase of over 50% for the same period in the previous year is misleading. New software will keep glitches below 50%, say 45%, and anyway, the Delhi Government has not explained why it allowed electronic meters to be forcefully changed twice. As of now, the new fast running meters and the defective software continue unmolested; citizens cannot protest every bill cycle, so the scam will flourish.


To add insult to injury, Ms. Sheila Dikshit callously asserts that if you want power, pay; if you want water, pay; if you want to eat, pay; if you want to sit in my fancy bus, pay… The chief minister is so indifferent to public anguish that she chose to hike bus fares at the precise moment when prices went through the roof and even the brazen regime had to admit 13.39 percent inflation in food items (market reality is much higher).


Since the bus hike, like the cost of milk and kitchen necessities, daily pinches the common man, may we ask why fancy buses with unbearable maintenance costs have been purchased in the first place, and through which private company? Did the carrying capacity of these buses justify the purchases – I think not. All that was needed in the old buses – which were converted to CNG at great cost under pressure from the Supreme Court, and at great inconvenience to the public when many routes virtually vanished for months – was to arrest drivers who gleefully ran over members of the public, and the owners who made them speed for higher profits! Clearly there is no profit in common sense.


Food prices are simply a scandal. A regime that does not bat an eyelid when potatoes sell at Rs 35/kg and a coin-sized lemon for Rs 5/-, holds the common man in obvious contempt. Even experts agree that food price rise has more to do with government policy (no comment) than the ground situation. Media exposure made the Delhi government promise to lower property tax in the NDMC area; but why is this different from MCD slabs in the first place?


Union Minister for Environment & Forests Jairam Ramesh has pointed out that the Yamuna remains a cesspool. There is no explanation how the Rs 10,000/- crores of Japanese aid received in Ms. Dikshit’s last tenure was utilised. Opposition parties should get cracking on this, because if schoolchildren accompanying Ms. Dikshit with hand-nets at weekends (twice?) can really clean the river, there would be no need for even government allocation of funds, let alone foreign aid! Every Delhi colony could take turns to send residents to fish out the muck on weekends - free.


Nearly 75 percent of forest cover that exists on paper is actually degraded land; hence last Saturday’s eye-burning fog! And now some private (crony) company will bilk the taxpayer for mapping Delhi’s carbon footprints. Money will also be reaped in installing gas-based power plants in the capital.


The author is Editor, www.vijayvaani.com


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