Has the AAP government lived up to its promises on power?
Across Delhi, from those living in small tenements to residents of big bungalows, everyone has benefitted, to some extent, from AAP’s promise to reduce their power bills
- Ever since it came to power, for 49 days in 2013 and for five years in 2015, AAP, in its manifesto, had promised and claimed that it had reduced citizens’ electricity dues by 50 percent
- Subsidised electricity was something the nascent political party was determined to do. A Jan Lok Pal and devolution of power to people through Swaraj were also promised
- But it was the slashing of power bills and the free 20,000 litres of water that caught public imagination and dominated political discourse
At 80-plus, Raj Rani Bhalla who lives with her working daughter in a four-bedroom apartment in East Delhi, manages every aspect of her household. The matriarch reads all the news relevant to her, and keeps an eye on all the discounts of food essentials in the stores in her neighbourhood. The former government employee has seen plenty of life and politics in the National Capital and never fails to do her duties by democracy as an unfailing voter.
So, when the Aam Aadmi Party promised to halve the of residents of the capital territory in the winter of 2013, repeated it in 2014 and is repeating the promise again for the February 2020 Assembly elections in Delhi, she initially took it lightly. But she got a pleasant surprise when she saw her electricity bill of last August. She had to pay only about Rs 1,700, even though the bill was for a little over Rs 2,500. It was the lowest electricity bill she has paid in a long, long time. It happened the next month too. But even more joy awaited her. The bills for November and December 2019 was zero.
Malini S, a resident of the plush Azad Apartments near IIT-Delhi, rarely bothered to take a close look at her monthly electricity bills which were generally over Rs 6,000. It took her some time to notice that she has been getting a “rebate/subsidy” of Rs 761 in her bills since last August.
But the biggest saving has been for the poor in the various re-settlement colonies dotting Delhi. “My electricity bill has been zero the last five six months though I don’t believe in giving or receiving anything for free,” said Dinesh Kumar, who lives in Geetha Colony where almost all the unbranded jeans and jackets sold in Janpath or Sarojini Nagar’ s flea markets are made in small units. Dinesh, who runs the most bustling tea shop in the capital’s Fleet Street, doubts if this can go on forever, but said honest politicians not taking cuts can definitely fund it from taxes they receive. Everyone in his neighbourhood is thrilled, because like Dinesh, they too have got the subsidy on electricity consumption that translates to a considerable saving every month.
Across Delhi — from those living in small tenements to residents of big bungalows — everyone has benefitted, to some extent, from AAP’s promise to reduce their power bills.
Ever since it came to power, for 49 days in 2013 and for five years in 2015, AAP, in its manifesto, had promised and claimed that it had reduced citizens’ electricity dues by 50 percent. The then first-time chief minister Arvind Kejriwal made that promise, applicable to those who consumed upto a maximum of 400 units a month, was three days after he became chief minister of Delhi on 28 December, 2013. He also slashed the cost of power to consumers from Rs 5 per unit to Rs 2.90, though this was reviewed and revised later with certain caveats.
While consumption upto 200 units got a 20 percent subsidy, consumption between 201 to 400 units got 35 percent subsidy. Those who consumed more than 400 units got no subsidy and had to pay the full price from the very first unit. According to Kejriwal, the subsidy covered 28 lakh out of 34.61 lakh power consumers in the capital. But consumers were slow to realise or appreciate the move, and Kejriwal had to resign as chief minister, with Delhi put under president’s rule, till Kejriwal returned to power in 2015 with a thumping majority.
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Subsidized electricity was something the nascent political party was determined to do. A Jan Lok Pal and devolution of power to people through Swaraj were also promised, but it was the slashing of power bills and the free 20,000 liters of water that caught the public imagination and dominated political discourse.
AAP’s manifesto spelt out how it would cut electricity bills:
“A more efficient, transparent and accountable system to regulate and audit power generation and distribution companies is the need of the hour and AAP will do everything within its command to achieve that. Discoms should purchase power from economical sources and wriggle out of expensive and unsustainable Power Purchase Agreements. AAP will take measures to provide relief from rising power bills, namely by generating cheaper electricity, improving transmission efficiency, fixing billing defects and correcting meter