Congress and BJP Members in Odisha Thursday sought clarification from the State Government to explain the reason behind giving electricity bill waiver to industries and raising the power tariff for the poor people during the pandemic. The Opposition Lawmakers demanded in the Odisha Legislative Assembly that the Naveen Patnaik Government immediately rollback the power tariff hike. The issue was discussed in the House through an adjournment motion notice where both the opposition parties strongly protested the Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commissions (OERC) approval of the power tariff hike by 20 paise per unit from 1 October.
The opposition members demanded immediate rollback of the decision as the people are already facing livelihood issues due to COVID-19 pandemic. Opposition Chief Whip Mohan Majhi of BJP alleged that the hike in power tariff will add to the woes of people who are already finding it very difficult to overcome the COVID-19
crisis. Accusing the State Government of being unable to collect huge electricity dues from different companies and industrial organizations, he said common people have been made an easy target. “Around Rs 3,000 crore electricity bills are yet to be collected from 26 industrial organizations in the State”, he added. Mr.Majhi also sought clarification from the Government as to how the state is selling electricity at Rs 3.21 per unit to other states while purchasing the same at Rs 3.81 per unit from some other power generating states.
Senior Congress Lawmaker Santosh Singh Saluja also joined Mr.Majhi and wanted to know the reason behind electricity bill waiver for big industries. “Thousands of crores of rupees are pending towards electricity and water cess. The government has failed
to collect the bills from industries for whose interest?” Mr.Saluja asked.Senior Congress member Taraprasad Bahinipati sought Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s intervention as the power tariff hike has come as a big blow for the poor and middle class people. Energy Minister Divya Shankar Mishra, however, rejected the opposition allegations and justified the power tariff hike.
He said the OERC took the decision to hike power tariff after considering the interest of all the stakeholders. Minister Mr.Mishra also justified the OERC’s approval of hiking the power tariff by 20 paise per unit, by mentioning that the power PSUs like the National Thermal Power
Corporation (NTPC), National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) and the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) have increased the average tariff by 68 paise per unit. “There has been no power tariff hike in the state for the last 7 years. Now the OERC has allowed an increase of only 20 paise which is just 4 per cent. The electricity tariff in Odisha is much less than many states,” the Minister said.
The Minister said the enhanced power tariff will not be applicable to consumers belonging to BPL families and farmers utilizing power for agriculture purposes. Not satisfied over the Minister’s Reply, the BJP Members staged a walkout from the State Assembly.
Meanwhile, the BJP activists also staged protests outside the Assembly demanding rollback of the power tariff hike. Party supporters staged demonstrations outside all the electrical division offices in the state capital and vowed to take the agitation to every nook and corner of the state if the Government did not roll it back.