The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Front asks for cheap power

Calcutta, Feb. 6: The Left Front today asked the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government to find out ways to retain cross-subsidy in power tariffs, which was abolished by the state electricity regulatory commission.

At its meeting, front chairman Biman Bose asked Bhattacharjee and power minister Mrinal Banerjee to ensure that electricity was supplied to the poor at subsidised rates.

“We must find out a way to provide relief to the poor and the middle-class at any cost. We have moved high court against the commission’s decision. If we lose, we will move the Supreme Court. If we lose there, we will have to bring about a legislation to combat the decision,” said Bose.

A movement will be launched to create public opinion against the decision, he added.

The decision of the commission — set up by the government to determine power tariff structures — to scrap cross-subsidies has put the front regime in a spot in the run-up to the panchaytat polls scheduled for May.

The front asked the power minister, who was present at the meeting, to “protect the poor and marginal farmers and those living below the poverty line from paying exorbitant power charges”. “We will have to think about the plight of the middle class, too,” added Bose.

Banerjee told the meeting consumers in Calcutta will receive electricity bills at a flat rate of Rs 3.90 per unit from March.

It is learnt the government is busy consulting legal experts to find ways to subsidise power bills for the poor.

Front sources said when the commission was in the process of drawing up the tariff plan, the CPI got wind of what was to come and wrote to Banerjee and Bose seeking government intervention. “But Banerjee did not take any action. This antagonised sections within the CPM and the CPI. Many leaders from both parties believe the situation could be avoided if the government acted earlier,” a front leader said.

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