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Residents serve ultimatum on Delhi Government

Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: Serving an ultimatum on the Delhi Government to withdraw the recent increases in electricity and water charges, the Delhi Residents' Welfare Associations' Joint Front on Saturday warned that if the excess money "extorted" from lakhs of consumers across the Capital by way of inflated billing was not refunded immediately they would be forced to launch a "non-cooperation movement" against the State Government.

Accusing the Delhi Government of speaking for the private power distribution companies, representatives of nearly 150 RWAs gathered at the Defence Colony park to lodge their strong protest by observing a "Black Day" over the power tariff hike and the reported moves for privatisation of the Capital's water utility.

The rally demanded that the Government come out with a notification ruling out constant change of electricity meters. "Further, the 9-lakh meters already changed arbitrarily and forcibly resulting in inflated bills should be replaced by the original meters and the excess money charged by fast-running meters should be refunded without any delay."

Putting both the Government and the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) on notice, the rally said the existing agreement between the Delhi Government and private power companies should be reviewed. "In addition, the transactions of the private companies should be brought under the Comptroller and Auditor-General's purview to make them accountable. The discoms that do not carry out these measures should face the stick and their agreement should be terminated by DERC and steps should be taken to introduce competition in the power sector in the Capital. The DERC should also be made a multi-member body with representation from the consumers' side."

According to Front secretary Pankaj Aggarwal, speakers at the rally made the point that strong resentment prevailed among the consumers and that the increases in water and power charges were not justified as the quality of service had not improved accordingly. The power situation continued to be grim and people were still being subjected to "meter terrorism". He said the Government should come out with a formal notification that if the present meters of the consumers were working fine then there was no need to replace them.

Stating that although their interaction with Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit last Saturday was fine but nothing concrete had happened after that except for some cosmetic steps to cool tempers, the rally expressed concern over the reported move of Delhi Jal Board to engage the services of foreign experts and companies to manage water distribution in the Capital.

"The secretive manner in which the proposal was being implemented is unacceptable," they said, and urged the State Government to improve the efficiency of the Delhi Jal Board rather than opt for privatisation.

Similar protest rallies were held during the day by the Delhi Citizens' Front in various parts of Rohini to protest against the power hike and demand its withdrawal.

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