The Congress and NCP leaders in Maharashtra are sparring over power minister Nitin Raut’s plan to give free electricity to residential users whose consumption is up to 100 units.
Though Raut has asked his department to prepare a feasibility report by end of April, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who also holds the finance portfolio, has opposed the idea. Speaking with reporters on Sunday in Pune, Pawar said, “The government shouldn’t make promises that it can’t fulfil.” A day later, state Congress president and revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat echoed Raut’s sentiments and said the government should give free power to weaker sections.
Aday before the Delhi Assembly polls, the Shiv Sena had heaped praises on Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for waiving or halving water and electricity tariffs. Kejriwal’s apparently successful experiment of free power up to 200 units for residential consumers cost his government around Rs 2,000 crore since October last year.
According to consumer activists, the Maharashtra government-owned power distribution utility Mahavitaran will have to shell out Rs 7,100 crore annually if the new policy is adopted. Mahavitran has around 2.5 crore consumers, out of which 1.95 crore are domestic consumers. Out of these, 1.4 crore consumers use less than 100 units per month.
Activists also point out that power in Mumbai is also distributed by private utilities like Tata Power and Adani Electricity or municipal undertaking like BEST. Together, these utilities have around 50 lakh consumers, of which at least 70 per cent use less than 100 units per month. Activists said that these consumers can’t be discriminated against just because they are served by a private utility.
The state government is already reeling under the debt burden of Rs 4.71lakh crore, which is expected to cross Rs 5 lakh crore by the end of the financial year.