The brief was clear – there were to be no untoward incidents, no sloganeering and certainly no detention of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission members. So two companies of the Delhi Police personnel were deployed at the PHD Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the venue of a public hearing being organised by the DERC ahead of the power tariff determination exercise on Monday.
From barricaded roads and diverted traffic outside to heavy frisking and strict vigil by personnel in uniform and plain clothes inside, the law enforcers were taking no chances and turned the venue into a virtual fortress.
They stepped-up security and the change in venue for an interaction with the public was a departure from the usual practice of inviting the consumers to share their views with the regulator, before the power tariff determination is carried out. And all this was for a reason. During the public hearing in 2012, BJP party workers led by their leader Vijay Goel had stormed into the DERC office during an ongoing hearing and held the chairman, P. D. Sudhakar, hostage.
With the BJP’s intention to protest at the venue splashed across the city through posters and the recent entrants to the political fray, the Aam Admi Party, having made paani-bijli their cause, the Commission was in no mood for skirmishes and verbal wars.
The Delhi Police came up with a long list of do’s and don’ts and an exhaustive list of barred items. “Are you carrying any kind of ink?” asked a woman constable who frisked this correspondent’s bag, trying to rule out “ink” as a weapon of protest.
A senior police official told The Hindu: “We are here to rule out any untoward incident, there was no formal request from the DERC, our presence is pre-emptive.” But what was reassuring for the DERC members was disconcerting for the consumers, who complained against the heavy police presence at the hearing. “Despite all the [checking], police personnel were made to sit for the public hearing as well. Are we criminals?” asked an angry Anil Bajpai, president of the East Delhi RWA Federation.