Mumbaikars get just 10 mins each to voice problems related to power tariff hike

The Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission told them to restrict their speeches at a public hearing held for consumers of Reliance Infrastructure, which supplies power to the suburbs

The Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) held a public hearing at World Trade Centre at 11.30 am yesterday for the consumers of Reliance Infrastructure (RInfra) that supplies power to the suburbs.

There are 29 lakh RInfra consumers and, after the hike, the residential consumers will be paying anywhere between 12-51% higher, depending on the slab they fall under. File pic for Representation
There are 29 lakh RInfra consumers and, after the hike, the residential consumers will be paying anywhere between 12-51% higher, depending on the slab they fall under. File pic for Representation

But this was one public hearing where people were asked to restrict their speech against the rising power tariffs. Unlike every year, when the public hearing for a suburban power distributor like RInfra is held at Rang Sharda in Bandra, this time it was at Cuffe Parade.

The few people who attended said that they had to leave at least 3 hours before the scheduled time and traffic made it worse. Power experts and officials attending public hearings for years said that it was very rare that less than 50 people were present, and most of them belonged to the power company.

“Less than 15 people from the common public made presentations,” said a power official present at the hearing. RInfra first presented their proposed tariff hike which is up to 51 percent, though varying from slab to slab. There will be at least four public hearings, one for each power company that supplies to the city and suburbs.

Peoples’ views restricted
As if this wasn’t enough, the MERC bench headed by Chairperson Chandra Iyengar asked the public to restrict their views to 10 minutes. “If we are not allowed to speak at a public hearing then what is the point?” said Sandip Ohri, power expert who had made a presentation.

He also mentioned the cumbersome process of applying before the public hearing wherein one has to give 6 copies of their submission. The Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) raised the issue of technical jargons being used in the public notices and responses at the hearing.

V Raut, the representative from MGP said that at least the summary of the public hearing should be simple for a layman to understand. The consumers also raised the point wherein RInfra forgot to mention a vital table in the public notice that was published recently.

“We wanted clarity on the proposed tariffs that appeared as public notice in newspapers. When we asked the authorities, they asked us to refer to a specific table number, which was missing,” said Pramod Mazumdar, member, URJA Prabodhan Kendra.

This raises concern about the seriousness of power companies who publish proposed tariffs in newspapers without even actually checking them. “This is a serious issue if there is a factual error in a public notice.

We, as a commission, have access to all documents but this public notice is the only way for people to understand it,” Iyengar told RInfra officials. The MERC authorities have now asked RInfra to clarify this matter. In response, the RInfra representative Vivek Mishra said that in case of any miscommunication they will surely get back to consumers.

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