The public hearing session of the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC) on the business plan of the Electricity Department for the control period 2019-22 witnessed heated arguments between representatives of civil society, political parties and department officials. A range of issues such as lack of manpower, non-functional smart meters and frequent hikes in power tariff sparked the debate.
JERC chairman M.K. Goel said that the public hearing was only to listen to the opinions and grievances of consumers on the business plan. The tariff structure would be worked out only after the business plan was approved, he said.
V. Perumal, national council member of CPI(M), said that the business plan submitted by the department had been aimed at increasing the tariff benefiting corporate companies.
While power connections of ordinary consumers were disconnected because of non-payment of bills, the department had not taken any step to collect arrears from major industries that owed the government several crores of rupees, he alleged.
Mr. Perumal said that power theft had been rampant in the Union Territory and about 13.67% loss was reported in the Union Territory last year. However, the actual loss was more than 20%. There were several instances of power theft in Yanam and this would not be possible without the collusion of a few employees, he said.
This led to strong protests from officials of the department. Sundar, a consumer, said the department was yet to find a solution to overhanging cable TV wires on electricity posts. He said that officials were wary of collecting “fee” from cable operators and MSOs for using the electricity poles.
Stakeholders at the meeting brought to the notice of the JERC deficiency in various services like installation of smart meters, underground cables and transformers to check breakdowns. The smart meters provided to houses in the Boulevard area were faulty and the residents were getting inflated power bills. The increase in the bill amount had been threefold in July and August compared to the previous months, a consumer said.[The Hindu]