NEW DELHI: Delhi Power Minister Satyendar Jain had an open debate with his Goa counterpart Nilesh Cabral in Goa on Monday. Jain said power tariffs in the state would not increase in the next five years if AAP comes to power.
Cabral said the BJP government in Goa would not provide free electricity, but continue to supply it at highly subsidised rates. He added that ‘freebies’ like the one promised by the AAP leader come at a heavy cost to the state exchequer. Cabral also claimed the AAP government in Delhi was taxing people in other ways to make up for the losses brought about by such freebies.
“Goans deserve free power because the state has a much higher per capita budget than Delhi. Despite this, people here get basic amenities of poor quality. There are frequent power cuts and the common man suffers,” Jain claimed.
Free power is a major poll plank for AAP. The party realises that the scheme of ‘Bijli Swaraj’ will find many takers as there is demand for it. In 2015, AAP had announced that the Delhi government will reduce electricity bills by half by generating cheaper electricity, improving transmission efficiency, fixing billing defects, conducting CAG audits of discoms and rectifying meter defects. In Delhi, the government has provided 200 units of electricity to each registered subscriber for the last two years with no rise in power tariff.
Jain said that if AAP is voted to power, it will assure that all other states get this benefit The party also decided that those consuming electricity between 201 units and 400 units will be eligible to avail 50 per cent subsidy from the government on their bills. Both Goa and Delhi have the same core problem of the states being consumers but not producers of energy. They buy electricity from other states and do not sell.
In October, 2019, it came to light that the Delhi power department was reeling under financial crisis due to non-payment of dues by the consumers. After going through the balance sheets of all the sub-divisions, it was seen that a total of Rs 350 crore was outstanding from power consumers, including government agencies, individuals and private firms. Of this, Rs 120 crore to Rs 145 crore was due from various government departments alone, according to officials in the government.
On the other hand, the AAP government focussed on upgrading the old and creating new infrastructure to support the new polices planned and implemented in Delhi. Political observers point out that during his initial days, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal attracted public attention by challenging the then Sheila Dikshit government on electricity tariffs. The AAP famously tore copies of electricity bills and disconnected electrical lines as a form of protest. Power distribution, which was a public affair in Delhi, was privatised in 2002 under the rule of Congress.