Many states are offering huge discounts on electricity tariffs for small household and agricultural consumers. The new Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab has announced up to 300 units of free electricity to domestic consumers from July 1. This was one of the major promises of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Assembly elections. In Himachal Pradesh, up to 125 units of electricity consumption and drinking water are free. The announcement was made by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on April 16, Himachal Day. In Uttarakhand too, electricity has been provided free of cost to those using up to 100 units per month. For those who use 100 to 200 units, there is a 50 per cent discount on rates. In Tamil Nadu, up to 30 units of electricity per month is free for domestic consumers and agricultural connections. Earlier it was up to 20 units. The limit was raised to 30 units in September.
But the Left government, which is celebrating the first year of its continued rule in Kerala, is in the process of robbing consumers by sharply raising household electricity tariffs. KSEB has submitted its tariff petition to the Regulatory Commission for approval. The rate hike is 18.14 per cent for domestic consumers, 11.88 per cent for small industrial consumers and 11.47 per cent for large industrial consumers. Minister Krishnan Kutty said that the board could not go ahead without increasing the power tariff. The board owes so much.
In addition, KSEB has recommended that night consumption be considered as peak hour and higher rates be charged. The board claims that an additional charge for consumption from 6 pm onwards will reduce the power consumption at that time, thereby reducing the amount of electricity purchased from outside at higher prices. But it is also during this time that the common man consumes a lot of electricity and the children of the poor do things related to schooling. Wealthy people will have step up and inverter facility. The common man relies solely on KSEB’s electricity. The extra charge at night will make it darker for them.
Like Kerala, Punjab is a debt-ridden state. According to government figures, Kerala’s public debt is Rs 2.94 lakh crore, while Punjab’s is Rs 3 lakh crore. If up to 300 units of electricity are made free, the Punjab government will incur an additional liability of Rs 5,000 crore. Yet how can they provide up to 300 units of electricity for free? Free electricity will reduce electricity theft and bill fraud. The number of employees assigned to detect irregularities can also be reduced. The government hopes that by reducing operating costs and making the power supply more scientific, it will be possible to reduce the losses and pass on the benefits to the people. Such concessions can only be implemented in Kerala if the KSEB management and employees are willing.
Proper collection of arrears can significantly reduce the board’s losses and avoid imposing drastic rate hikes on customers. As on December 31, KSEB owed Rs 2,117 crore in arrears. Of this, Rs 1,023.76 crore belongs to the private sector and Rs 1,020.74 crore to the state public sector undertakings. The board, which is strictly collecting the arrears of the common people, is showing gross negligence in collecting the arrears of the bigwigs.
It has also been alleged that the loss figures shown in the petition filed by the Electricity Board with the Regulatory Commission seeking an increase in rates are false. The allegations were made by the High Tension and Extra High Tension Industrial Electricity Consumers Association, citing discrepancies in the figures submitted to the KSEB Regulatory Commission and the Board’s budget document. While the documents submitted to the Regulatory Commission show a loss of Rs 2,852.58 crore, the budget document shows that the Board will make a profit of Rs 496.20 crore in 2022-23. 9,854.32 crore for power generation in 2022-23. When it came before the Commission, it rose to Rs 10,012.35 crore. In addition, the Board has generated an additional revenue of over Rs.1000 crore by generating an additional 2,588.88 million units of hydropower in 2021-22. This unexpected income is also not in the document submitted to the Commission. The association alleges that the board exaggerated the losses before the commission to get the rate hike approved.