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Delhi local bodies poles apart over streetlights

Private distribution companies in Delhi, reeling under increasing cost of power and falling revenues, are at loggerheads with local civic bodies over streetlights.

As opinions of both continue to be poles apart on issues such as payment for repairing streetlights to energy charges to even the completion certificate for repairing streetlights, Delhi’s streets might turn darker by the day.

North and North West parts of Delhi are particularly vulnerable. The dues that New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has to pay Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL), the power seller in these areas, in the last two years amounts of Rs 62 crore. This, TPDDL said would lead to switching off power for streetlights.

“There is a difference over the records maintained by us and by TPDDL. The government-controlled DelhiElectricity Supply Undertaking (DESU) managed the power distribution earlier,” said a senior executive at NDMC, who did not want to be quoted. “We used to buypower in bulk from DESU and sell according to the demand in the city.” NDMC said those arrears, amounting to Rs 180 crore, were paid. “There was no tariff increase for us, until the last week, so we are adhering to the old regime.”

Electricity tax
TPDDL also alleged NDMC has also not paid electricity tax amounting to Rs 18 crore.

Electricity tax is paid by the local body that collects it on behalf of the one which distributes power. In NDMC areas, both these functions are carried out by the civic body itself.

“So passing on the tax collection to TPDDL does not arise at all,” said the executive.

BSES, another private power distributor in Delhi, has hit a roadblock in the East Delhi areas. BSES failed to issue work completion certificates to East Delhi Municipal Corporation for the non-functional streetlights, which were repaired by it. The dues, dating back to 2005, have been hence stuck. Since then streetlights repairing cost has gone up. “In a meeting held with the discoms and the municipal corporations, BSES admitted it issued work certificates but EDMC contested that it hasn’t,” said one of the executives present at the meeting.

Delhi has three municipal corporations and NDMC as urban local bodies. NDMC manages power distribution in its areas. In south Delhi, the concerned municipality corporation deducted half of BSES’ dues since it maintained streetlights during March to August 2013.

“The representative of SDMC (South Delhi Municipal Corporation) said as the issue of non-functionality of streetlights was raised by councillors, so they deducted the amount. BSES, however, said there was no joint inspection that was carried out to ascertain the same,” said the executive quoted above.

The principal secretary (power), who chaired the meeting, directed the municipal corporations to pay pending dues to the discoms, as they have to make further payment for power purchase. But, NDMC is strongly adhering to its stand that the discoms especially TPDDL needs to come up with documentary proof of pending payments.

“We have written to TPDDL to provide detailed information on the pending payments. It would be difficult to fetch such information, as it wasn’t properly documented during the pre-privatisation era,” said an NDMC official.

As all arguments centred around streetlights, BSES took it to another level on Wednesday by launching a toll-free number for complaints regarding their non-functioning, the first discom in the city to take up such an initiative.

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