Delhiites will get subsidy on domestic power bills only on an opt-in basis from October 1, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced here on Wednesday. The subsidy will be in place till September 30 but, beginning October 1, only those domestic consumers who opt for it will continue to benefit.
The decision, Mr. Kejriwal said, was based on public demand that consumers get the option of accepting or declining the power subsidy towards which an estimated ₹3,000 crore is spent by the Delhi government annually.
A flagship scheme of the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Delhi government since its ascent to power in the city, free/subsidised electricity is one of the main promises which Mr. Kejriwal, also AAP’s national convener, has been making in several States going to the polls for the last eight years. It is also at the core of the freebie or “rewdi culture” political debate triggered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Even as Mr. Kejriwal sought to clarify that the government was merely making the power subsidy extended by it optional and had not retracted it, the opposition BJP accused him of making a U-turn on the issue after having exhausted the city’s finances.
“Out of 58 lakh electricity consumers in Delhi, 47 lakh get subsidy, of whom 30 lakh consumers get zero bill and 16-17 lakh get half bill. Some people questioned why they were being given subsidies when they could pay electricity bills; they demanded that they should be given the option of accepting or declining the subsidy,” Mr. Kejriwal said at a press conference.
“A form will be sent out to electricity consumers along with their bills; once filled and submitted, their subsidy will continue even after October 1. Everyone will be required to opt in for subsidies by filling out the form once a year, so that those who do not want subsidies can opt out,” he said.
Consumers can also obtain the required form by dialling 7011311111 or by sending a ‘Hi’ message on this number on WhatsApp after which they can fill it out and ask for subsidy. They will then be notified via SMS or email that they have been registered and that their subsidy will continue. Those who apply before October 31 will continue to receive the subsidy beginning October 1 after which they will get subsidy starting the month in which they apply.
The Chief Minister said a comprehensive campaign would be launched to raise awareness about the changes.
Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta, terming the Chief Minister the “master of U-turns”, said the move indicated how “rewdi culture” had finally bled the Delhi government’s finances.
“The scheme is being withdrawn since the State exchequer has been exhausted and can’t support it any more,” he said.
Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Ramvir Singh Bidhuri said the way in which the move was being rolled out betrayed the Delhi government’s ill intentions.
“The Kejriwal government is just trying to find different ways to stop the subsidy from being given to consumers. It should have continued for all and only those who wanted to opt out should have been made to fill forms; consumers will now face problems trying to opt for the scheme,” the LoP said.
Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor asked the people of Punjab and poll-bound Haryana and Himachal Pradesh to take note.
“That the scheme was a political lollipop has been exposed today; the people of Punjab should be aware that they might soon lose subsidy on power while voters in Gujarat and H.P. should not believe any announcements in this regard,” he said.