At the time of elections, political leaders give all sorts of empty promises to people. During the 54 years after the Independence, people have vexed with the false promises of the leaders. Particularly leaders belonging to ruling parties try to bring heaven on earth by making the promises. But after the elections the leaders ignore the promises as well the welfare of the people.
Though Transco was able to get an additional income of Rs. 900 crore by concentrating on bill collections, Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu said that the hike in power tariff was inevitable. Increasing of taxes after the elections has become a routine issue. Mr. Chandrababu Naidu said that it was not possible for the government to cover up the entire losses of the Transco. He gave a call to his party cadres to give fitting reply to the propaganda of the opposition leaders with regard to power tariff hike. This indicates that there is no change in the attitude of the state rulers.
The Opposition is preparing for a fight with the government on the power tariff hike issue. Hundreds of people, led by political leaders and other organisations, agitated against power tariff hike in August 2000 all over the state. If such a situation arises during this year, it may bring problems to the ruling Telugu Desam Party leaders.
Elections were held recently to the civic bodies at Hyderabad, Tirupathi, Rajahmundry, Hindupur and Markapur (Prakasam District). Along with the ruling TDP, leaders of other parties also made various promises to the people of the respective municipalities.
Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, CLP leader Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, PCC president M. Satyanarayana Rao, senior Congress leader K. Rosaiah, Union Ministers M. Venkaiah Naidu, B. Dattatreya and Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, CPI leader Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy and CPM State Secretary B.V. Raghavulu campaigned in the elections along with other stalwarts belonging to other parties. During the campaign, Congress and Left parties leaders cautioned the people that power tariff and LPG prices would be hiked if TDP voted to power. Whereas the TDP and BJP leaders reiterated that there was no question of hiking the power tariff.
Naidu, at his election campaign meetings, declared that the matter relating to power tariff hike was left to the Transco and Andhra Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission (APERC). The state government would provide necessary power subsidy and protect the people from the hike burden if the two organisations hiked the power tariff, he assured. He too urged the people not to believe the ‘mispropaganda’ of the Congress party and the Left parties.
Reacting to the Naidu’s assurances, Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy threw an open challenge to the former. He said that Congress would withdraw its contesting candidates in the mini civic polls provided Chief Minister gives a public announcement that there would be no hike. But, the TDP and BJP leaders did not come forward to take the challenge. Chandrababu Naidu and Venkaiah Naidu assured the people that they had already held discussions with the union Petroleum Minister and repeated that there would be no hike in the cooking gas prices.
The Centre has been proposing to withdraw its control over the monitoring of petroleum products’ prices from April 15. Consequently there were several reports in the media indicating a hike of Rs.90 for cooking gas (LPG). It was also stated that the prices of kerosene would be hiked after April 15. Though Chandrababu and Venkayaiah Naidu ruled out the price hike, it is to be whether their governments would take up steps in that direction.
‘Current shock’ to the people of AP after the civic polls
The government, even before the commencement of the counting of votes for the recent mini civic polls, submitted its proposals to APERC recommending an increase of 7.3% over power tariff and an additional income of Rs. 481 crore was estimated. Farmers, Commercial units, domestic consumers, cottage industries and even major industries will be badly affected due to the hike. It was also proposed to hike meter service charges from Rs. 10 to Rs. 20.25. For the consumers of first slab, the increase will be from Rs. 10 to Rs. 15.
The TRANSCO’s maintenance expenditure is estimated to be Rs.9,504 crore PA. As the revenue from bill collection stands at Rs. 6,621 crore, it leaves a deficiency of Rs. 2,882 crore. To cover-up the deficit, it was proposed to get additional revenue of Rs. 215 crore from wheeling & grid support charge, Rs.400 crore by selling power to other states, Rs. 130 crore by raising meter service charges and Rs. 351 crore by increasing the tariff. Even after these collections, a deficit of Rs. 1,786 crore will be left.
Chandrababu losing people’s faith?
Despite repeated hike in power tariff at regular intervals, the TRANSCO losses could not be reduced in the expected lines. Chief Minister, before elections, announced that subsidy would be given to TRANSCO to cover up the losses. He also reiterated that the burden due to hike would not fall on middle income sections and farmers. But the assurances are not being implemented after the polls.
The TDP government had increased power tariff abnormally two years ago affecting all sections of people-workers, farmers, middle and even higher income sections. The individual power consumption charges were amounted more than the house rents for certain categories.
Congress party and Left parties organised several agitations, dharnas all over the state for more than three months expressing their anguish over the hike. The Opposition MLAs raised the issue in the Assembly. Instead of considering the views of the Opposition MLAs, the government took an adamant attitude and suspended the MLAs from the House. The Congress MLAs organised an indefinite hunger strike protesting against the power tariff hike. The leaders of 9 left parties organised a massive rally on August 28, 2000 in Hyderabad resenting the hike. Thousands from various corners of the state took part in the rally, which commenced from Indira Park on that day.
The government deployed a large number of civil police, CRPF and other personnel to suppress the agitators at almost all the places on the Assembly route. Police lathi-charged the agitating people. After using tear gas shells, police opened fire on the crowds. Vishnuvardhan Reddy, and Balaswamy died on the spot while Ramakrishna, who sustained head injuries died in hospital. Several senior leaders of the Opposition parties also sustained injuries and were hospitalised. If such a situation repeats this time, it will bring troubles to the ruling party leaders.
Chandrababu Naidu, during the discussion of draft budget proposals on January 29th, this year, categorically stated the power subsidy would be withdrawn in a phased manner in the next four years. It seems he has forgotten the promises made before the elections to the civic bodies. Naidu got name and fame as a hard working ‘hi-tech’ Chief Minister in the country. At every given opportunity, he stresses on the ‘accountability’ for officials and also to the people. But unfortunately, he himself forgets about it. As in the case of veteran CPM leader Jyothi Basu who ruled the West Bengal for 25 years, Chandrababu Naidu also wishes to rule the state (AP) for the same period.
70% of the population in AP depend on agriculture and agriculture based products for their survival. The policies adopted by the government are not aimed at the welfare of the poor, downtrodden, farmers and workers. The policies are beneficial only to multi-national companies. Common people will not tolerate them, critics opine. Government maintains that it plans to reduce the productivity cost and it intends to make the people self-reliant. People also agree to the aims of the government. But they do not want to live on begging. Several thousands were thrown out of jobs due to the policies. People in the state require employment opportunities. They urge the government to take suitable measures to eradicate corruption among politicians and officials and to reduce unwanted expenditure in government departments. It is to be watched weather the policies to be adopted by the government in future would benefit the people.
Chandrababu regretted at the low percentage of votes polled at the municipal elections in Banjarahills and Jubilee Hills areas in Hyderabad. The road widening works and other development works could not satisfy the people in the areas, he regretted. Only when the ruling TDP government takes up welfare measures for farmers, workers, middle income and other weaker sections, people will retain Naidu in power as per his wish.
The government has allocated Rs. 1561 crore as subsidy for power during the year 2001-02. However it is not known how much money the government would actually release. It is also proposed to give a subsidy of Rs. 1,792 crore for power sector for 2002-03. The proposed power tariff hike depends on the subsidy.
The state government has been planning to reduce the power subsidy to a just 0.3% of the total power production cost (GSDP) in the next four years i.e., by the end of 2005-06. It is also planned to completely withdraw the subsidy by 2006-07. Then the Board has to mobilise funds for the power transmission without depending on the government for the next four years. At the time of re-organisation of the APSEB, government gave assurances to increase power production in the state. Besides, it had also assured efficient and un-interrupted power supply to the consumers. But it is deplorable that no steps were taken to fulfill the promises.
When will the 40% transmission losses go?
According to government statements, the power transmission losses were estimated at 40% of the production. However, no suitable remedial steps were taken to reduce the transmission losses. According to engineers, the Board will gain a revenue of Rs.330 crore by reducing transmission losses by one per cent and an income of Rs.100 crore can be gained by increasing the collections by 1% . Steps have to be taken to increase the capabilities of the Transco personnel in collecting the dues from the defaulters. In addition, steps have to be taken to reduce transmission losses and to eliminate corruption prevalent among the officials and politicians.
After the Lok Sabha Elections in 1996, 98 and 99, Assembly polls in 1999 civic body elections in 2000, Panchayt Raj elections in 2000 and after the recent mini municipal elections, the government increased power charges, Motor Vehicle taxes, water cess, sales tax and bus charges. Leaders of political parties expressed their resentment over the hike and criticised the policies of the government at every point. People started realising the truth in the criticism of the Opposition. Various sections of people on different occasions flayed that ruling TDP government under the leadership of Chandrababu Naidu increase taxes on various items as per the instructions of the World Bank during the last 61/2 years.
CPI and CPM and other parties are planning state-wide agitations over the power tariff hike issue. The power tariff hike was proposed by the government in tune with the recommendations of the World Bank, the parties say. Under the circumstances, people express their resentment over the ‘anti-people’ policies of the ruling party in the state. Chief Minister has to realise the actual economic conditions of the people before thrusting any hike in the tariff, it is felt.
Power charges to be increased by 4 times for farmers
The state government is planning to completely withdraw power subsidy in the next 4 years. Thousands of farmers in the upland areas of Rayalaseema and Telengana depend on pump sets for their irrigation needs to their agricultural lands. They will be forced to pay the tariff 4 times of the present amounts if the subsidy is withdrawn.
The power charges to the farmers upto 3 HP (presently Rs. 250 per HP) will be hiked to Rs. 950/- per HP. For those using 3 HP to 5 HP the charges will be hiked from Rs. 400 to Rs. 1,500 and for the farmers using 5 HP to 10 HP motors, the hike will be from Rs.500 to 1,900 per HP. For pump sets beyond 10 HP, the taxes will be hiked from Rs.600 to Rs. 2,325 per HP. A farmer having a 5 HP pump set will have to pay Rs. 7,500.
Presently a sum of Rs. 303 crores is collected from agriculture sector. It is proposed to collect a revenue of Rs. 2,227 crore after the hike.
70% of the people in AP depend on agriculture. Farmers are considered as backbones of the country’s economy. Due to the recommendations of the World Bank and due to the agreements reached between government and the private power production companies, the farmers are facing severe competition. The power tariff hike will give a blow to the farmers and may break their backbones. It is the responsibility of the state government to reduce the burden on the farming sector, it is opined.
Particulars of hike in power tariff from April 1
With the approval of the Chief Minister, the Transco has sent proposals to APERC recommending the hike to the tune of Rs. 481 crore from various sections. A notification was issued on January 24 to this effect. APERC receives objections from the people within 30 days of this date. Final orders will be issued later.
The proposed power tariff hike rates:
For LT domestic consumers
For irrigation per HP (per annum)
By P Damodara Prasad