Anticipating a hike in the electricity tariff due to escalation in prices of natural gas and coal, the Assam government has decided to subsidize the power rate for consumers both below poverty line (BPL) and above poverty line (APL).
"There has been a 165 per cent increase in the price of natural gas in the last two years, while in the case of coal, the price has increased by 150 per cent. Though the power tariff is decided by the Assam Electricity Regulatory Commission and the government has no say in it, it is our responsibility to ensure consumers are not hit too much by increase in the tariff. We anticipate that there will be a rise in the tariff because of increase in prices of natural gas and coal. Hence, the government has decided to subsidize the tariff for domestic consumers," power minister Pradyut Bordoloi said on 19-08-2013.
For BPL families, the government will subsidize the tariff for up to 30 units at the rate of Rs 1.10 per unit, while for APL families, the subsidy would be for up to 120 units at the rate of 70 paise per unit.
"There are 10 lakh BPL families and 16 lakh APL families in the state that will be able to avail the subsidy," the power minister said.
According to political observers, the state government's decision to subsidize the electricity tariff in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha election, so that the electorate, which is already burdened by price rise of essential commodities, is not further enraged by the electricity tariff hike. Bordoloi, however, said the subsidy has nothing to do with the polls.
While the government has decided to provide an annual assistance of Rs 200 crore to the Assam Power Distribution Company (APDC), the power minister asked the company to gear up its revenue collection mechanism.
"The distribution company's monthly expenditure is Rs 300 crore, but its revenue collection is just Rs 225 crore. APDC has been able to collect revenues from only 18 per cent of the 16 lakh houses that it provided electricity connections to over the last three years. If this shortfall is not made up, the company will be in a crisis soon," Bordoloi said.
To arrest electricity theft and leakage, Bordoloi said the government has decided to spend Rs 875 crore for installing the IT-based ring fence system (RFS) technology in 72 towns, including Guwahati, under the Union power ministry's restructured, accelerated power development and reform programme.
"The RFS technology will be foolproof. Groundwork for the project has started. We are also planning to launch a prepaid electricity tariff system," he added.