Statement of the Delhi Regional Committee of Communist Ghadar Party of India, 10th July, 2012
On 26th June, the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) announced a new tariff schedule with a 25-27% hike in the rates of electricity for the Delhi domestic consumers. In less than one year, residents of Delhi are being made to pay about 65% more for a unit of electricity, in addition to 33% higher fixed monthly charges.
While the residents of Delhi are being asked to pay exorbitant rates, they are at the same time the victims of massive and unscheduled power cuts. Thousands of members of working families have flocked the streets in many localities, protesting against the unbearable heat and power cuts resulting in sleepless nights. People are so angry that they have even blocked major highways.
When the program to privatise electricity distribution in Delhi was launched over ten years ago, it was accompanied by the propaganda that the problem of inadequate and unreliable power supply is due to the inefficiency of the government-owned Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking (DESU). Handing over the distribution business to private monopoly companies was presented as the solution. The advocates of privatisation claimed that it would make the system efficient and benefit the consumers, the working families of Delhi.
Organisations of workers and residents of the city raised their voices even then, demanding that the Delhi Government cannot absolve itself of its duty to guarantee reliable and adequate power supply to all families at affordable prices. The Delhi Government promised the people that their interests will be protected by a Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC), a so-called independent authority.
Today, the facts of life have completely exposed the lying propaganda in support of privatisation of electric power distribution in Delhi. The quality of power supply remains terrible, with massive power cuts hitting the people precisely in the hottest season when they need electricity the most. At the same time, people are being made to pay exorbitant rates.
Why are people being made to pay such high tariffs? The reason lies in the fact that the private monopolies of the Tatas and Ambanis, having reduced transmission and distribution losses, are now eager to earn maximum profits from the sale of power in the capital.
The experience of Delhi, that of Odisha, the first Indian state to privatise power distribution, as well as international experience shows that the working people do not benefit from privatisation. They inevitably are made to pay exorbitant rates and compelled to limit their power consumption. The private companies who gain control of electricity supply are the ones who stand to gain; after an initial period of restructuring, they begin to pocket maximum profits.
Life experience has exposed the fraudulent claim that DERC is an “independent authority”. People were told that DERC will protect the interests of all the “stake-holders”, both the capitalists who sell electric power and the working people who buy it for domestic use. When the former DERC Chairman, Mr. Birjender Singh, ordered a reduction of tariff by almost 25%, because transmission and distribution losses had been reduced, the Delhi government promptly stalled his order. He was replaced by a new Chairman, who passed an order for an increase of 22% in August, 2011. This clearly shows that the Regulator is not independent of the Government, nor is the Government or Regulator independent of the big capitalist interests.
The creation of the mechanism called DERC actually serves the interests of the monopoly capitalists and their parties. The Congress Party in charge of the Delhi Government, for instance, hides behind the so-called independence of DERC to claim that people cannot blame the government any more for any problem in electric power supply or its price. It is a mechanism to confuse people as to who is making the decisions and to send them from pillar to post, while the big capitalists rake in their profits.
Privatisation leads to the conversion of public goods into commodities that can be sold at monopoly prices. The real motive of privatisation of electric power is to transform this essential social service into a lucrative business for capitalist monopolies. The inevitable result is that people are made to pay higher and higher tariff to guarantee maximum profits for the private companies.
The Delhi Regional Committee of the Communist Ghadar Party of India calls on all the hard working people of Delhi and their family members to unite in defence of their right to be supplied with adequate electric power at affordable rates. Let us fight for our rights with the perspective that the working people must become the decision-makers so that the economic system can be made to serve them. Let us in one voice demand that:
- The recent power tariff hike be withdrawn immediately;
- Privatisation of electric power distribution be reversed; and
The Delhi Government should take charge of electricity distribution and establish modern mechanisms of accountability, including people’s committees and social audit– so as to ensure adequate quantity of reliable electric supply to all residents of the city at affordable rates.