Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s decision comes as another significant scheme in the AAP Government’s vision of Delhi resident-centric reforms.
In yet another visionary welfarist move, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is looking to bring relief to the capital’s poorer sections with free electricity up to a minimum 200 units slab. The announcement will touch approximately 3.2 million residents of Delhi who stand to benefit.
The announcement will touch approximately 3.2 million residents of Delhi who stand to benefit.
The decision comes on course as the AAP Government is finding new ways to bring relief to Delhi’s citizens with subsidies and free public services. The decision is expected to cost ₹1,800-2,000 crore annually, which is similar to the cost Delhi government bears currently for power subsidies.
Congratulations Delhi— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) July 31, 2019
For fifth consecutive year NO electricity tariff hike. On the contrary, for fifth consecutive yr, tariffs reduced. Delhi has lowest electricity tariffs in the country now
And Del is the only place in India wid 24×7 electricity
Free public amenities are often denounced by politicians and analysts who think freebies is not a good idea and spoils beneficiaries. But that is a derivative of the capitalist ideologies which want men to struggle and strive for comfort, masquerading the classist divide as principles of a hard-working man.
Defying capitalist myths
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s decision comes as another significant scheme in the AAP Government’s vision of Delhi resident-centric reforms. And free electricity is not a new phenomenon. The idea was infact brought into existence by the Congress government in 1997 to provide free power to farmers. The scheme has been continued by successive governments in the centre.
"After transforming the power sector in Delhi with 24*7 electricity, improved infrastructure, improved financial health of electricity distribution companies, CM @ArvindKejriwal announces 200 units lifeline electricity free for Delhi’s citizens"- @AtishiAAP #PehleHalfAbMaaf pic.twitter.com/zgOsK3Varg— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) August 2, 2019
Even a commission that sat to evaluate the free power being provided to farmers in Haryana and Punjab proposed that free power to domestic consumers can be done for socially and economically backward sections.
Trumping the opposition
Opposition, including BJP and Congress have been vocal in their rejection of free schemes as honest welfare vision. Vijender Gupta, Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly, raised the issue alleging collusion between AAP and DERC to amp up fixed charges claiming that consumers had been made to pay Rs. 10,000 crore to discoms due to these fixed charges.
Delhi ex-Chief Minister and Congress Chief Sheila Dikshit joined in as parties demanded a waiver for six months asking Delhi government to compensate electricity consumers and demanded rollback of tariffs.
The free electricity announcement came with revised slabs for domestic and industrial consumers by upto 32%.
Kejriwal answered acknowledging that the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) had raised fixed charges for reasons ‘we could not know’. The chief minister said government was in talks with DERC to reduce fixed charges. And trumping the demand for six months of free electricity, AAP government has made power permanently free for the poorest of consumers.
Apt vision backed by Centre
Recently, Union minister R K Singh made it clear that states can decide if they want to give free power to certain sections of the society, but the financial burden should come out of their own budget. He said, “Power has a cost and somebody has to pay for it. If you want to give free power then go ahead. But you (states) have to pay for it from your budget. That is what we are going to do.”
Free power is not an issue if the basics of sustainability in Power sector are catered to, which is establishing a connection between payment and delivery. And AAP government is confident it won’t be a financial stress given the massive Rs. 60,000 budget for 2019-20 declared recently.
The nation-wide need
Free and cheap availability of public amenities to the poorest sections of the society is a nation-wide need in times of cash crunch and slumping macro-economics. Tamil Nadu government bore financial stress of around ₹7,760 crore in 2017-18 for free power to certain sections of the state.
Delhi’s electricity cost was already way less than other metropolitans like Mumbai (₹1,400), Gurugram (₹910) and Noida (₹1,310).
Punjab government has subsidized power for 1.17 lakh families and 17.76 lakh domestic consumers for SC, BC and BPL families. As recently as last week, around 8,000 farmers from Lucknow and nearby towns protested demanding free electricity.
Delhi’s electricity cost was already way less than other metropolitans like Mumbai (₹1,400), Gurugram (₹910) and Noida (₹1,310), but the decision takes the affordability of public amenities in the state a step beyond. It can be argued whether the scheme will serve its touted purpose and overcome political hurdles to come into existence. But what is undebatable is that it is a visionary reform in the right direction that defies the classist ideology of our society, becomes an example for peers and takes the country forward in the right direction.