RK Singh: Mamata protecting private discom or not briefed properly on power bill – Times of India

NEW DELHI: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is trying to protect the private monopoly in Kolkata’s electricity distribution by opposing the draft Electricity Amendment Bill 2021, or state officials did not briefed her “properly” on the proposed reforms such as offering consumers the option to choose a supplier on the basis of service quality and affordable tariff, according to Union power minister RK Singh.
“Presently, people do not have a choice, they have to bear with a distribution company (discom) even if it is inefficient, its service is poor and the tariff is high. For example, the private distribution company in Kolkata has one of the highest tariffs in the country and is a monopoly. If the proposed amendments happen, that company will face competition. Why you want to protect this private company from competition is not clear,” Singh wrote to Banerjee on Monday.
Banerjee had last month written to the prime minister opposing, among other issues, the provision for ending state or private monopoly by delicensing distribution and allowing multiple players – including the state utilities – with a view to offering consumers choice of suppliers much the same way it happens in mobile telephony.
“It seems that your officers have not briefed you properly. The Bill which is under examination in the government… is very different from the Bill which was circulated in 2020,” Singh wrote, questioning reasons for her objection to a proposal that seeks to bring down consumer tariffs through competition.
Singh pointed out that state utilities will continue working as they are after distribution is licensed but they will have to compete with others on efficiency, service quality and tariffs.
Singh described as “incorrect” Banerjee’s complaint to the Prime Minister that the Bill was drafted without consultation with states. “The draft Bill was circulated to all states for their comments. After the receipt of comments, detailed discussions were held with the states region-wise,” the power minister wrote.
Singh wrote the present Electricity Act already provides for more than one discom operating in one area and cited Mumbai as an example. “So this is not something new. Delicensing (distribution) will reduce the barriers to entry and enhance competition, leading to lower tariffs and better services. We delicenced generation in 2003. Now generation is not regulated by licences but by laws, rules and regulations. This is what will happen when we delicense distribution,” the minister wrote.

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