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AAP echo in Chavan power tariff cut

Mumbai, Jan. 20: Maharashtra’s Congress-led ruling coalition today cleared a 20 per cent cut in power tariffs of state-owned agencies, weeks after Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal government slashed electricity charges.

The reductions in Maharashtra come four months after an increase of a similar quantum, but officials declined to describe today’s move as a “rollback”.

Consumers in Mumbai will not benefit from the cuts as the much of the city gets power from private firms like Tata Power and Reliance Energy.

But a senior official said the reductions would be extended to the city too and a meeting with the private firms would be held soon. Mumbai Congress MPs Sanjay Nirupam and Priya Dutt had staged protests recently outside one of the firm’s offices demanding tariff reductions in the city and citing Delhi’s example.

The cuts announced today will cover domestic, commercial, industrial and agricultural consumers, principal secretary (energy) Ajay Mehta said. The move is based on a recommendation by a group of ministers headed by industries minister Narayan Rane, sources said.

“The increase in power tariffs implemented in September 2013 would be cut back. Domestic users consuming up to 300 units would benefit from the tariff cut,” said Mehta. Other officials said the new rates would come into force from a date to be notified soon.

According to a senior power ministry official, 1.56 crore of the 2.14 crore consumers — nearly 73 per cent — who stand to benefit are domestic or household users. Of the domestic users, 83 per cent use up to 300 units. The cuts will cost the government Rs 706 crore a month.

Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan denied suggestions he was following in the footsteps of the Kejriwal government that had announced a unit-linked 50 per cent cut. “We have not taken the decision to because of Aam Aadmi Party,” Chavan said this evening after the BJP slammed the move as “an eyewash ahead of the Lok Sabha polls”.

Business chambers warned against populism. “The reduction must have an economic rationale.,” said Indian Merchants’ Chamber president Shailesh Vaidya.