[Mpisgmedia] Power tariff hike blame slums?

Text of letter to DERC chairman about media reports of

News reports today, most quoting you, convey the
impression that slum residents have been paying a
Discoms flat rate of 175/- and will continue to pay
the same while tariff for others is being hiked. The
Hindustan Times, for instance, starts its front page
report with "Starting next weekend, every Delhiite who
does not live in a jhuggi-jhonpri (JJ) cluster will
have to pay more" and ends it with "JJ colonies will
be subsidised by the rest of the city".

It is convenient to blame JJ clusters for problems,
but that does nothing to solve the problems. The
defunct 'bijli thekedari' scheme for JJ clusters, you
would recall, arose in 1997 out of blaming them for
power theft and it soon became obvious that major
theft was elsewhere, including in NDMC area, spared
tariff hike this year. Again, media reports are both
malicious and misleading.

Firstly, consumers in JJ clusters are not paying to
Discoms because Discoms are not supplying electricity
to them, but to 'bijli thekedars' (licensed by DVB)
who seem, since privatization, to be collecting but
not paying to anybody. It is these 'bijli thekedars'
and not their paying consumers in JJ Clusters that the
whole city is subsidizing in absence of action to
recover arrears, possibly running into hundreds of
crores, from them.

Secondly, DERC came out with a 'scheme' for
electricity supply at flat rate of 175/- by Discoms in
JJ clusters only two and a half months ago (on
26.03.04) and subsequently clarified that this was
only for un-electrified clusters. Nearly all JJ
clusters are electrified by 'bijli thekedars' and in
the few that are not the 'scheme' seems not to be in
force yet. There can be no question of hiking or not
hiking the flat-rate tariff of 175/- for JJ clusters
because this flat-rate tariff is not in effect.

Thirdly, what JJ consumers are paying (to 'bijli
thekedars') is actually higher than what comparable
consumers are paying to Discoms (because of state
subsidy). For example:

* The rate 'bijli thekedars' charge is as per DERC,
ie, 1.75/unit for 0-100 slab, etc, while the rate
others in this slab were paying to Discoms was 1.50
after subsidy. Flat-rate of 175/- was the top end
amount (without subsidy) for this slab and the order
of 27.03.04 (before the present hike), did not account
for subsidy and, in effect, sought to over-charge JJ

* JJ consumers are already paying more than the
flat-rate of 240/- up to 50 sq.yd plot now proposed in
unauthorized colonies (which Pioneer sympathetically
says "have not been spared"). In The Hindu you are
quoted saying that on average those consumers use
640/- worth of electricity (which comes to 188 units
at cost of 3.40/unit). For the same consumption JJ
consumers, in smaller plots, have been paying 330/- by
the metre at 1.75/unit, if not more.

In view of all this, I request you to make public the
following, so we know who is subsidizing who:

(1) details of arrears due from 'bijli thekedars' in
JJ Clusters
(2) details of JJ clusters electrified by Discoms
since 26.03.04 under the 175/- flat-rate scheme
(3) DERC's 'detailed analysis' of JJ clusters
(referred to in para 4 of its order of 26.03.04)

In view of National Common Minimum Programme
commitments to, besides power privatization, welfare
of weaker sections and also accountable government and
responsive administration, perhaps you might also want
to consider issuing a statement about the malicious
and misleading media reportage about consumers in JJ
clusters who have been seeking from you, in vain, a
hearing about their problems since 2002.

Yours sincerely
Gita Dewan Verma / Planner

Previous posts about DERC order of 26.03.04
Hundreds of objections to the order for JJ clusters,
along with requests for hearing, were submitted to
DERC through April. In the beginning of May DERC
replied to all to clarify that its JJ order was only
for un-electrified JJ clusters. Demand for hearing
remains. I will post a full account with all
correspondence since 2002 asap.

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