Rewarding those who had supported the Aam Aadmi Party’s “bijli-paani andolan” and refused to pay their electricity bills, the AAP government on Wednesday announced a 50 per cent subsidy on their pending bills and waiver of penalty.
The government also announced the withdrawal of cases booked against those for power theft during the period when Arvind Kejriwal launched his campaign against “inflated” power bills while the Sheila government was in power.
In a statement, the Chief Minister’s office on Wednesday announced a “50 per cent relief on pending arrears of those electricity consumers in the capital who had opposed their inflated bills and had in protest against these inflated bills refused their payment between October 2012 and May 2013”.
The statement said the Power department has got a list of such people “and their number is 24,036”. “These people had resisted payment of their inflated bills till December 2013 and the chief minister, in keeping with his promise to provide relief to the people who had agitated against high electricity tariffs and inflated bills, decided to provide them 50 per cent relief on outstanding arrears,” it said.
During this period, “a total of 2,508 electricity connections” were also disconnected for non-payment of bills. “The government has decided to provide relief… it will consider the closure of theft cases registered against some consumers during the previous government’s regime,” the statement said.
Cabinet Minister Manish Sisodia said, “The people who supported us during the andolan and refused to pay inflated bills should benefit now.” He said the move will cost the state exchequer over Rs 6 crore.
The power regulator, the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Authority (DERC), once again, reacted cautiously saying none of the decisions taken on Wednesday needed a go-ahead from it.
“The government does not require the regulator’s permission in any of these cases. The rebate amount is paid directly by the government and the theft cases involve criminal proceedings under different courts,” DERC chairperson P D Sudhakar said.
Sources in the Power department said most cases of default were in densely populated areas like Mundka, Khanpur, Burari, Bawana, Najafgarh, Sundar Nagri, Rohini and Seelampur. All these areas are strong vote-bases of the AAP.
Sections of the Delhi populace called the decision “unconstitutional” and an “insult to law-abiding citizens who paid their bills on time and were now being penalised”.
“Kejriwal has given political bribe to its cadre/AAP party workers by waiving off bills (for those) who supported his agitation. In various judgments, the Supreme Court and the High Court, have established that the consumer is duty-bound to pay for services used. Kejriwal has no authority to differentiate amongst consumers and provide extra benefit to those who are working for his party at the cost of those consumers who paid regularly for their electricity bills. The decision of the government is meant to provide benefit to defaulters at the cost of law-abiding consumers,” S K Sharma, president of the Residents’ Federation of Rohini Cooperative Group Housing Societies, said.
In order to fulfil its election promise of reducing power tariff, the AAP government has already cut tariffs by 50 per cent for those consuming less than 400 units a month, costing the exchequer over Rs 200 crore.