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Fulfilling yet another major poll promise, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government today gave a new year's gift to the people of Delhi and announced a 50 per cent subsidy on power consumption of up to 400 units while appearing all set to order a CAG audit of three private power distribution companies.
A day after implementing the first promise of free water supply of 667 litres a day, a meeting of the Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal got down to the business of providing relief to the citizens on the power front.
However, the rider here - like in the decision on free water yesterday - was that consumption above 400 units would attract full charges from zero base.
Arvind Kejriwal said the burden on account of enlarging the subsidy will be Rs 200 crore for the next three months, although the cash outgo will be Rs 61 crore and the rest will be a book adjustment.
After today's decision, which will come into effect from tomorrow for three months, people consuming up to 200 units would have to pay Rs 1.95 per unit against the current rate of Rs 2.70.
For units above 201 and up to 400, the charges will be Rs 2.90 per unit against the current Rs 5.
In effect, the 50 per cent subsidy will amount to 20 per cent in the case of the first 200 units and around 35 per cent for consumption between 201 and 400 units since today's decision is applicable on rates revised in August last.
The previous Sheila Dikshit government had given Rs 1.20 subsidy on the rates for consumption of up to 200 units and 80 paise between 201 and 400 units.
Simultaneously, Arvind Kejriwal also began work on bringing the three power distribution companies - BSES Yamuna Power Ltd, BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd and Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd - under the purview of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Brushing aside the doctor's advice, Arvind Kejriwal drove to the CAG office in Central Delhi and met incumbent Shashi Kant Sharma, who he said was ready for the job of auditing the three companies.
The Chief Minister said the companies had been given time till tomorrow morning as required under the law for an opportunity of being heard as to why they should not be audited.
"The Cabinet will meet tomorrow and, after going through their replies, we will decide whether or not to audit," he told the media after the Cabinet meeting.
Slashing of power charges and auditing the finances of power distribution companies were among the major promises made by AAP during its election campaign.
Arvind Kejriwal said that today's Cabinet decision would provide relief to more than 28 lakh out of a total of 34.61 lakh power consumers in Delhi.
The Chief Minister said that the government will pay Rs 61 crore to TPDDL while the remaining Rs 139 crore would be adjusted against the outstanding dues of over Rs 4,000 crore of BSES discoms to power companies of Delhi government.
The government will review the power tariff issue after the audit of the discoms is completed.
"Further decision on power tariff will be taken after receiving the audit report. There are chances that we may not need to give any subsidy," he said.
The Chief Minister said the subsidy amount payable to BSES discoms will be paid to the government-run power generation companies to which the BSES discoms owe over Rs 4,000 crore.
He said that the government will achieve two objectives with one decision - lowering of tariff as well as securing the pending dues of Pragati Power Corporation Ltd, Delhi Transco Ltd and Indraprastha Power Generation Co Ltd.
The DERC had announced a 5 per cent hike in tariff in July, fixing Rs 3.90 for first 200 units and Rs 5.80 for consumption between 201 and 400 units.
For consumption between 401 units and 800 units, the rate was fixed at Rs 6.80 per unit and, for consumption beyond 800 units, the per unit rate was fixed at Rs 7.