Power consumers, NGOs speak their heart out on tariff

DERC Chairman P. D. Sudhakar.– File Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

DERC Chairman P. D. Sudhakar.– File Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar  

A large number of activists representing social and rights organisations as also past and present representatives of various power sector related bodies criticised the functioning of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission on the second and final day of the public hearing exercise undertaken before the fixation of the new tariff by the regulator.

While on the first day a number of politicians, including Delhi BJP president Vijay Goel and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, were among those who spoke, on the second day various NGOs and power consumers presented their cases.

A consumer, H. M. Sharma, said discom BRPL in its petition for 2013-14 wants an increase in tariff by 1.61 per cent and DERC on its own enhanced the tariff twice recently on January 31, 2013, and May 3, 2013. Both these orders were illegal because there is no mandate in the Electricity Act, 2003, that they can enhance the power purchase cost unilaterally. So the discoms filed their petition well in advance for enhancement of their power purchase cost but according to the provision of the Act, under section 64 every tariff petition should be published by the applicant and the DERC is to provide adequate opportunity to participate and give their views. But in the case of both the recent orders this procedure was not followed.

Also when petition was pending, what was the basis of allowing this interim tariff revisions. Regulation says power purchase and sale can be trued up only once a year. So these orders were grossly illegal, Mr. Sharma said, demanding that extra amount be refunded to the consumers along with the interest.

Rajiv Kakria of NGO Chetna demanded that the Commission should suo motu order the discoms to respect the Central Information Commission judgment and fall within the ambit of the Right to Information Act.

He said the judgment was based on three parameters -- allotment of prime land at concessional rates, income tax exemptions, free air time given by public broadcasters and electoral rolls given by the Election Commission. Mr Kakria also pointed out that the CIC had based its decision on three important points raised by complainants which were “substantial funding received by the parties from government, performance of public duty by them and legal provisions vesting them with rights and liabilities”.

While most of the speakers restricted themselves to a couple of minutes, some like former member of Delhi Electricity Consultative Council Rajan Gupta spoke at length on the issue of tariff fixation and book-keeping by the discoms and the regulator.

Mr. Gupta charged that “bogus documentation” was being used to hike tariff in Delhi. He said the accounts being presented before the public, government and the Commission all told a different story. He said for the year 2012-13 while the original petition of BRPL in the public domain pegged the revenue gap at Rs.5,589 crore, the revised figure and DERC’s staff paper put it at Rs.5,924 crore while the DERC’s own advise for the bail-out package had put it at Rs.5,533 crore.

Mr. Gupta also drew heavily on the strictures passed by the Appellate Tribunal, which is the disciplinary authority, in February this year in a case between Delhi Transco and DERC to comment on the working of the Commission. He read out various paragraphs from the order to buttress his argument that the panel lacked judicial knowledge, working and ethics, and thus could not provide a fair hearing to the citizens.

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