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High Cost of Electricity and the Pandemic

“I lost my job in the Pandemic, I cannot pay my electricity bill. I will burn the bill.”

Let us see whether and how this expression is justifiable.

You lost your job. You did not go to your office. You were at home.

Your wife sent you to sabzi mandi to buy some vegetables, Onions, Potatoes to cook food for the family.

You paid in cash, you paid through a mobile app. No vendor gave these free to you. They sympathized with your having lost the job but no one gave you vegetables free.

This is because, someone has grown these vegetables on the farm, watered them, protected them, carted them to the wholesale market, sold them to the retailer and he has brought them to you at a point close.

For all these activities, for the people who worked on these, the ultimate customer is the only payment point and if he does not pay, then the whole supply chain goes without payment.

Now, this is the case for vegetables. Electricity is no different. You came home. You switched on your geyser, took a hot water bath, came out, switched on the fan, watched the TV. You consumed electricity.

Your retail supplier has supplied you the electricity on the understanding you will pay the bill, which will go to pay the persons involved in its complete supply chain. These include the coal fuel supplier, electricity generators, the high voltage transmission licensees, and finally the retail supplier for supplying to your house.

If you do not pay your electricity bill, the entire supply chain gets affected and goes into disarray.

So, it is clear that you cannot go back on your agreement or understanding for an unrelated reason, and you have lost the job is certainly not related to your consuming the electricity at home, notwithstanding having lost the job.

There is another side to the coin.

As per the Indian constitution “Electricity” is a concurrent topic, which means that it is handled by the Central Government as well as the State Government.

In India, more than 90 % of power distribution to the urban Residential, Commercial, Industrial consumers and 100% to the rural and Agricultural consumers is handled by State-owned utilities. They source the power mainly from the State-owned generating plants and Centre owned generating plants over the transmission system owned by the Central and State Transmission Utilities. So it is seen that the State government has fairly robust control on Generation, Transmission and retail electricity supply to consumers.

And yet, please understand very clearly that the identity of the Government is very distinctly apart from the identity of the power utilities.

Power utilities are part of the National Energy Network interconnecting with Coal- Oil- Gas sectors, although, for whatever reason, many of these are owned by the Government, they are Public Sector Utilities, PSUs and cannot be mistaken as part of Government which is strictly related to Legislature-Administration and Judiciary.

Nevertheless, let us admit that both, Central as well as State Governments being so closely connected with the power system, may have financial interrelation between the ministries, the consumers may perhaps request the State Government or Central Government to cover the supply of electricity under the umbrella scheme of social welfare in the pandemic situation and pay their bills to the utilities.

Please understand, there is no question of not paying the bills, as there is no such thing as free meals, but there is this small question, who makes the payment, if not the consumers, then the State or Central government will have to pay the entire supply chain from Coal to the last mile of power. The employees and stakeholders of these segments cannot remain without payment. It will cause great harm to people n working at these companies. By twisting the arm of power utilities, in reality, you are twisting your arm. To persuade the government to help you out, and the Government will in probability do that, but wielding your weapons against the power retailers, who are an important part of the nation’s energy sector is certainly to be avoided.

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