New Delhi, Feb. 12: Pay not “inflated” bills, ye faithful. Your leader will waive half the dues.
The Aam Aadmi Party government has decided to reward those who followed Arvind Kejriwal’s call not to pay “inflated” electricity bills, in yet another populist measure it has announced since coming to power late last year.
The Delhi cabinet today halved pending arrears for some 24,000 households that didn’t pay their bills between October 2012 and May 2013. The one-time waiver will cost the exchequer Rs 6 crore.
While making the announcement, education minister Manish Sisodia said these consumers had refused to pay their bills in support of the campaign the AAP had launched in late 2012, soon after the party was formed.
“The Delhi government today decided to give a 50 per cent subsidy to those who did not pay their bills…” Sisodia told reporters.
Message: faith can not only move mountains, it can save you money too.
This was the AAP government’s third announcement related to power firms since it took over in December. In the first week of coming to power, chief minister Kejriwal had announced a 50 per cent subsidy on electricity consumption of up to 400 units. Later, the AAP government also ordered government auditor CAG to audit the finances of the three private power distribution companies that serve Delhi.
Electricity and water bills had been the centre point of Kejriwal’s campaign against the previous Congress government. Just after the AAP was formed, Kejriwal had launched a “bijli satyagraha” in October 2012. In a two-phase campaign, he went on a 15-day fast in March, opposing what he called inflated electricity bills. He broke his fast only after a letter from his now-estranged mentor Anna Hazare.
Around 10 lakh people had signed the AAP’s petition against the distribution companies during the agitation and some 24,000 households refused to pay their bills.
The power department has compiled a list of 24,036 such households though officials said the government did not have proof that all these households were part of the campaign.
In the second phase of the agitation, Kejriwal visited parts of Delhi to restore connections in households punished by power firms for their failure to pay such “inflated” bills. Some 2,500 electricity meters had been disconnected.
This section stands to benefit too.
“The government has decided to provide relief to those people also so that they do not suffer for wrong decisions of the previous government,” Sisodia said.
The government has also decided to consider closing power theft cases the previous government had lodged against some consumers.
The waiver announcement comes a day before the controversial Assembly session the Kejriwal government has convened to table the Delhi Lokpal Bill 2014. The AAP government tonight declared it was going ahead with tabling the bill tomorrow, ignoring the Union law ministry’s view that prior approval from the Centre’s was required.
The Kejriwal government also remains adamant on keeping the last day of the session on February 16 open to the public. The venue hasn’t been decided yet.
Delhi High Court has sought the government’s response on its proposal to hold the session outside the Assembly building.