The ninth day of the ongoing monsoon session of Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha Thursday saw opposition raising the issue of the power tariff hike saying that it has dealt a blow to the common man already facing economic crisis due to the pandemic disruption while the government argued that the hike only targeted high-end consumers while others remained unaffected.
July onwards, the state government reduced the subsidy given to domestic electricity users consuming more than 125 units per month.
Congress MLA Harshwardhan Chauhan, one of the members who moved a resolution to discuss the issue, said that lakhs of people from Himachal working in other states returned home during the pandemic, while businesses and employment opportunities within the state were severely disrupted. “Instead of providing relief to the public, the government imposed a higher power tariff while bus fares were also increased by 25 per cent,” he said.
Rohru MLA Mohan Lal Brakta alleged that his constituency suffered a power blackout of five days while Sujanpur MLA Rajinder Rana said that the owner of a small shop in his area received a bill of Rs 1.64 lakh. Opposition members also said that there are prolonged delays in the delivery of electricity bills, which are sometimes inflated.
In his reply, Power Minister Sukh Ram Chaudhary said that there are around 20 lakh domestic consumers of electricity in Himachal, who consume around 2,100 million units of power in a year. The government provides a subsidy of Rs 400-450 crore to these users, around 18 per cent of which goes to 11 lakh, or 55 per cent of users who consume upto 125 units a month. There has been no reduction in subsidy to these users who fall in the first slab, while those consuming 126-300 units (second slab) and above 300 units (third slab) will see an increase of Rs 40-213 and Rs 213-357 in their monthly bills respectively, Chaudhary said.
He further said that the government will save around Rs 110 crore per year in subsidy. This decision, he said, was taken to promote energy conservation among those using more power and to correct the regressive subsidy scheme since 82 percent of it went to those falling in the second and third slabs, among other reasons. The minister added that he will look into the specific power-related issues raised by various MLAs.
Cong stages walkout
Soon after the House assembled, Congress members demanded a discussion on “job reservation being denied to members of the scheduled tribes and castes in the state, and improper allocation of funds to SC/ST sub-plans” under an adjournment motion, before staging a walkout over the issue.
Speaker Vipin Singh Parmar said Jagat Singh Negi and some other Congress legislators submitted him a notice in the morning to move an adjournment motion under Rule 67 to discuss two Dalit-related issues. Parmar said the walkout by the opposition party was premeditated as its legislators started raising slogans without waiting for the ruling of the Chair on the notice for adjournment.
The Speaker said the notice was given to discuss two different topics, adding that the Congress legislators tried to create a scene instead of presenting the context for adjournment motion.
Chief Minister Jairam Thakur and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Bhardwaj also criticised the Congress for staging the walkout.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines