Oppose the massive hike in electricity bills in Delhi

Statement of the Delhi Regional Committee of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, September 9, 2011

The Delhi Government has increased power tariff by around 22 per cent with effect from September 1, 2011.

This is a massive attack on the working people of Delhi. On top of rising prices of food, of petrol and gas, now we have to pay 22% more than what we paid for last year for a basic necessity for modern society, electricity. For the poor, for the retired people, for the vast majority who are not even covered by a modicum of DA, it is an even more massive attack.

The Chief Minister, Shiela Dikshit, has justified this hike from the point of view of the profits of the three private service providers.  She has taken refuge behind the announcement of the current Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) Chairperson. To add to the attacks, the DERC has announced that this price rise is just a first step. It will "review the rates of power tariffs" every 3 months, to “match the cost of power purchase incurred by distribution companies”.

The Delhi Regional Committee of the CGPI condemns this massive attack on our people and their livelihood.

Government claims it is going to suck only Rs. 600 crores more of our hard earned money. It has already sucked thousands of crores of our money through the Commonwealth games and distributed it to the pockets of businessmen, politicians, and bureaucrats. This is not including the huge amount of loot by other means, which the public is fully conscious of, and which has been raised by our people's movement against corruption.

For the past several years, the Delhi government has been conducting a "natak" of "lok Sunvai's". Why do we call it a "natak"?

Nothing that we the people, through our organisations, have proposed is ever taken into account.

Only those proposals are taken into account which the government finds are suitable for the capitalists and the ruling party/ coalition.

What we find at the all India level is repeated sickeningly at the Delhi level.

Here in the capital region, where some of the most advanced and conscious section of our working people live and work, it simply makes a mockery of all of us Indians. 

The Resident Welfare Associations (RWA's) all over Delhi have come out in opposition to this attack. They have declared they will not pay the increase in tariffs, even if power is cut off. This is a good beginning to our struggle.

To divide our struggle, the government and the parties of the ruling class are in action.

First action — to announce in the media — 19 lakh of the 31 lakh consumers will not be affected by the power hike.

That is there will be a subsidy on consumers of low amounts of electricity. Households who use only one tube light and may be one fan will be exempted from the hike.

What does this mean? Temporarily, those who either consume or show very low consumption, get a low rate, while the rest, get to pay nearly 30% more. Of course, they will later raise the rate for the poorer, while keeping the relatively better off intact. This is the "smart" policy of the ruling class parties.

The Delhi government has not answered a question raised by the people of Delhi and various RWA's — how come the last DERC chairperson said that the companies had made huge profits, and refused a hike in tariffs. What has changed in one year?

The former chairman of the DERC had found that they had earned a profit of Rs.6,000 crores last year. On this basis, he did not allow the power tariff to be increased. It is clear that the present hike is being made to increase their profits even more: it is anti – people and pro – monopoly. 

In fact, the Delhi government is following the policy that a minimum rate of profit must be guaranteed to the distribution agencies. It is like with the case of ENRON.

People would be fully justified in asking -- who is determining what is the cost incurred by the distribution companies? What is the basis for determining the cost?

These three agencies neither produce power, nor have established any new services. They have merely become collection agents for profits. Nobody has the right to ask these three distributors if they have they reduced wastage, losses due to non payment of bills, etc. Everything continues as before as far as the masses of people are concerned. Only, we have to pay more and more.

Two separate events assume significance in this context.

Just before the tariff hike, the electricity companies organised a get-together in Goa. Invited to this were the key decision makers on electricity rates in central and state governments. They dined and feted and agreed that rates should be increased all over India. They decided that the test place would be Delhi. It had the highest profitability. If they could succeed in Delhi, it would be pushed through with ease through the state governments all over India. Most importantly, they jointly condemned the previous regulatory authority for preventing a price hike.

Another development is that the Central Government has demanded that those state governments which are "making losses" by charging less for consumption than for buying, must increase tariffs to make sure "costs are covered".  Key states like Tamilnadu, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Padesh and some others are being targeted.  

In other words, the  Central state is saying — electric power is not your right. It is an arena for those who can make maximum profits. Yes, to divide you, we will make slabs, but the net result should be that people should ensure that capitalist monopolies make maximum profits.

When the electricity distribution was privatised in 2002, the government had said that “it would benefit the people”, referring to the huge distribution losses and theft that was rampant in connivance with top officials. The experience of the people of Delhi since that time is that it is the private companies and top officials who continue to benefit while the people continue to suffer and pay more.

Private companies have taken over the massive infrastructure, equipment, offices, substations and real estate belonging to the Delhi government for a song. New meters have been forcibly installed, which the workmen who install say are doctored. The workers who come to fix lines are contract labour. The only permanent staff is those who are near retirement, or are collecting bills. 

The Delhi Regional Committee of the CGPI calls upon the working people of Delhi to unite and with one voice, expose and oppose this massive attack on our people and their livelihood. We support the call of the RWA’s not to pay the increase in tariffs.


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