Aimed at mopping up additional annual revenue of over Rs. 10,000 crore, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Thursday announced her government's nod for the hike in bus fares, power tariff and milk prices. She made the announcement after chairing an hour-long meeting of the Cabinet at Fort St. George.
In her address televised on a private channel, a transcript of which was later released to other media, she dwelt at length on the present financial health of the organisations concerned - Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO), a successor entity of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB); State Transport Corporations and the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Milk Producers' Federation (‘Aavin'). “If these public sector undertakings, lying on death bed, are not given ‘oxygen' now, they will become totally dysfunctional,” she said.
Sources say that the increase in the power tariff is, on an average, expected to be Rs.1.50 per unit for different sections of consumers. The proposal, if approved by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission, will fetch Rs.8,000 crore a year. The previous power tariff hike was in August last year.
Referring to the State government's legal position on tariff determination, the Chief Minister said the government had no authority. The power utility would file a petition before the TNERC, which would hold public hearings before fixing the new tariff.
Ms. Jayalalithaa made it clear that agriculturists, weavers and those covered under the one-bulb scheme – hut dwellers – would continue to enjoy free power supply, for which the State government would provide subsidy to the TANGEDCO. Except for high-end consumers, other categories of domestic consumers would get government subsidy.
In respect of bus fares, the revision has been made after a gap of 10 years, the previous instance being in December 2001. The per km ticket price of ordinary mofussil buses would go up from 28 paise to 42 paise; express and semi-deluxe buses - 32 paise to 56 paise; super deluxe - 38 paise to 60 paise and ultra deluxe - 52 paise to 70 paise.
The minimum bus ticket price in urban areas other than Chennai would go up from Rs. 2 to Rs. 3 and the maximum would be Rs. 12 instead of Rs. 7. In Chennai too, the minimum fare would go up to Rs. 3 and the maximum would be Rs. 14 against Rs. 12.
State Transport Corporations, whose total losses for the current financial year are estimated to touch around Rs. 2,200 crore by the end of the current financial year, would get an additional revenue of around Rs. 2,100 crore in a year. Taking into account the prevailing factors, the Corporations are likely to achieve break-even. As on March 31 this year, their accumulated losses stood at Rs. 6,150 crore.
As regards the dairy sector, the price of toned milk per litre would be revised from Rs. 17.75 to Rs.24. The last increase was made in September 2009. The procurement price of milk paid to dairy farmers would go up from Rs.18 to Rs. 20 per litre for cow milk and from Rs. 26 to Rs. 28 for buffalo milk.
Even after the revision, the bus fares and the milk price would be lower than those in other southern States, Ms. Jayalalithaa pointed out.
The manner in which the announcement was made was itself a novelty as Ms Jayalalithaa used Jaya TV to announce her government's decisions around 3:30 p.m. Minutes later, the government released the text of her address to the media.