A week ago, the power company snapped supply to Banaram’s modest dwelling in Tigri Colony here for non-payment of dues. On Saturday, Banaram, a labourer who was asked to pay Rs. 15,000 as power dues, beamed at the flashing cameras as anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal took over, reconnected the power lines and restored electricity supply to his house.
With this, Mr. Kejriwal kicked off the ‘Bijli-Paani Satyagraha’, a civil disobedience movement to persuade the Delhi government to roll back power and water tariffs.
“Banaram was issued a bill for Rs. 15, 000 for using a television, [a] refrigerator, two coolers, two fans and eight light bulbs over two months. How can one run up a bill that high and how can a labourer, who earns a few thousands a month, be asked to pay so much?” Mr. Kejriwal questioned.
The ‘Bijli-Paani Satyagraha’, Mr. Kejriwal said, was a fight against “inflated” utility bills, but the Delhi government was quick to term it “unlawful” and called for legal action against Mr. Kejriwal and his India Against Corruption team.
While the power distribution company BSES, responsible for snapping Banaram’s power supply, refused to comment, Delhi’s Power Minister Haroon Yusuf slammed Mr. Kejriwal’s behaviour and demanded legal action.
Team Kejriwal undaunted
But Team Kejriwal remained undaunted. Reacting to the government’s views, it assured the people that it was ready to face penal action and even go to jail for restoring power connections that had been suspended for non-payment of dues.
Mr, Kejriwal accused the Delhi government of allowing escalation of tariffs that in turn have led to a sharp increase in power and water charges. “If Sheila Dikshit [Chief Minister] has decided to harass the people, we are also committed to reducing the suffering of the people. If I have sinned by getting Banaram’s household an electrical connection, I am ready to face his punishment. I will continue to help Delhi's troubled people until the government withdraws the increased electricity prices,” Mr. Kejriwal said.
“While the rich and the powerful owe huge amounts to power companies, their connections are not suspended.”