New Delhi [India], September 13 (ANI): Union Power Minister RK Singh on Monday asked West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee why she wants to protect a private power distribution company in Kolkata.
Singh wrote a letter to the chief minister in response to her letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month protesting the Centre's move to place the "anti-people" Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in Parliament, urging him to refrain from proceeding with the legislation.
Sources told ANI that the letter reads, "It seems that your officers have not briefed you properly. The bill which is under examination in the government is the draft Electricity Amendment Bill, 2021, is very different from the bill which was circulated in 2020. Your statement that no consultations have been held with the States is also incorrect."
The letter accessed by ANI says that the draft Bill was circulated to all the States for their comments. After the receipt of comments, detailed discussions were held with the States region wise on the draft Bill.
One of the proposals in this bill (2021) is to delicense distribution. The existing distribution companies will continue working as they are -- however, their monopoly will go and they will have to face competition. Presently, the people do not have a choice, they have to bear with a distribution company even if it is inefficient. Its service is poor and the tariff is high. There must be competition in this sector so that the people can choose a distribution company which gives more efficient service at a towering price.
Citing the example of the private distribution company in Kolkata, the Union Power Minister said that Kolkata has one of the highest tariffs in the country and there is a monopoly. "If the proposed amendments happen that company will face competition. Why you want to protect this private company from the competition is not clear," Singh wrote.
In the letter, the union minister has said, "The State Electricity Regulatory Commission will set the ceiling tariff and the distribution companies will have to offer tariff below that ceiling therefore there is no question of the tariff going up. In fact, the tariff will come down because of competition."
The letter states that the billing efficiency of West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company (WBSEDC) is only 81.43 per cent whereas the national average is 85.36 per cent, and the AT and C loss is 20.40 per cent leading to WBSEDC having one of the highest tariffs in the country
"The regulatory assets are Rs 15,519 crores -- if this burden is added the tariff will be ever higher. In 2019-20, the financial losses of WBSEDC excluding regulatory incomes was Rs 1,867 crores. This will also increase the burden on the people as it will have to be financed either by increasing tariff or met from the State Exchequer," it says.
However, as per the proposed amendments, the existing companies will continue functioning as they are -- the only difference is that other companies can come and offer electricity to the people at a lower tariff because they are more efficient.
The union minister questioned that if the people will benefit then what is the objection.
Singh also opposed the statement of Banerjee that the draft Bill seeks to curtail the powers of the SERC. He wrote that this is factually incorrect. In fact, the Bill provides for strengthening the SERCs by giving them powers to get their decisions enforced.
RK Singh assured West Bengal Chief Minister that while deciding the government will take into consideration all constructive ideas and suggestions received during the consultation process. (ANI)