Sheila is right: No short cuts in power

Semi Column

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has drawn the ire of the BJP for suggesting that people should consume lesser power if they felt their electricity bills were too high, and for citing escalating power production costs to justify power tariff hikes.

This is not the first time Dikshit has made such remarks on a public platform and will surely not be her last. However, the fact is, the CM is not wrong. Compared to most metros or even neighbouring states, Delhi enjoys the lowest tariff rates. At Rs 2.90 for 200 units a month and Rs 4.43 for 400 units, it is lower than Mumbai (Rs 4.91 and Rs 5.95 respectively), Bangalore and Kolkata. Haryana, with Rs 4.14 and Rs 4.60, is the lowest after Delhi.

While Delhi's power tariff has increased steadily for three years now 22 per cent in 2011, 26 per cent for domestic consumers in 2012 and 3 per cent from February 1, 2013 this is against a scenario of uninterrupted power supply. Not too long ago, Delhi's infamous power cuts could last anywhere from 30 minutes to seven hours, and generators or inverters were vital to survive.

But a decade after unbundling the power sector, the Capital can cite other numbers. From 24.51 lakh consumers in 2001, the number was up to 42.36 lakh in March 2012. While the sale of air conditioners has remained steady around three lakh every year since 2011 the sale of generators and inverters has been falling (from 3,69,546 in 2009-2010 to 2,62,702 in 2011-2012).

"Except for a few technical problems, there are hardly any power cuts," point out officials.

The fact also is that while bulk power costs have risen over 300 per cent (Rs 1.4 to over Rs 5 per unit) in 10 years, the retail tariff has increased by around 65 per cent.

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