Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 24:
The electricity distribution companies (discoms) have looted a whopping Rs 30,000 crores from consumers and the government in the state, alleged Electricity Consumers Association of Odisha in a press conference yesterday.
Questioning the role of the state government and the Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC), the association demanded that the proposed tariff hike must be postponed till the accounts of the discoms are audited by the CAG. It demanded a white paper on electricity service, tariff hike and operating procedure of the discoms.
ECA also demanded collection of the pending dues of Rs 5,000 crores of GRIDCO from the discoms and keeping private companies and franchises away from the power distribution sector.
“All four discoms of the state – CESU, WESCO, NESCO and SOUTHCO – have become a burden on the consumers. The consumers go through a lot of difficulties due to low voltage, power cuts, broken supply towers and in availing a new connection. While electricity reading metres cost Rs 1300 in open market, CESU charges Rs 2600 for the same through its franchises. The companies also go on to charge metre rents in consumer bill even after that,” said chairman of the association and former Finance Minister of the state Panchanan Kanungo addressing the press conference.
While the losses due to transportation were estimated at 56% in 1999, the private players were expected to reduce it after reforms. They failed to achieve the objective, but the tariff is still being hiked. The state government has all along supported the discoms indirectly, accused the association.
As per the gazette notification issued by the state government, OERC can get an independent audit of the discoms done to verify the need for a tariff hike. However, it is not being done giving rise to suspicion.
The government has also claimed huge losses to the power sector during the super cyclone of 1999, Phailin and the recent Hudhud. However, it doesn’t account for the scrap value of transformers, cables, towers etc damaged in the cyclones. The whereabouts of these equipment are not known.
There has been a huge scam of Rs 30,000 crores on account of these scraps, power tariff hike, transportation and distribution loss and the onus of the scam lies on the state government, said the association.
While the government has spent Rs 20,000 crores to develop the power infrastructure in the state, these companies haven’t spent a dime. The government still continues to favour the discoms, which is suspicious.
It has also demanded a hearing in the public while terming the mass hearing of the regulatory commission a farce.