By ARUN PRATAP SINGH
DEHRADUN, 14 April: The Uttarakhand Government today made huge claims on providing huge relief for electricity bills of industrial consumers in view of the lockdown. As part of its claims, the government announced postponement of recovery of fixed charges and demand charges on the power bills of the industrial consumers. The recovery has been postponed for 3 months but it has not been waived as had been demanded by several industrial organisations such as PHD Chambers of Commerce, Uttarakhand Steel Manufacturers Association, etc.
It has been claimed by the government that this is a major relief for factories. It was also claimed that this would put a financial burden of Rs 8 crore on the government. But it is not clear how mere postponement of recoveries of fixed charges would entail a financial burden of over Rs 8 crores to the government, when the industrial units would have to pay these charges after three months as this is no waiver but mere postponement of bills.
Secondly, when production is shut down due to lockdown, most MSME units are likely to find it very difficult to survive the burden of paying huge bills even when the production is shut for a long period of over a month due to the Corona pandemic driven lockdown. Therefore, the claims of major relief to the industrial consumers do not sound appropriate. The government, while announcing the postponement of the recovery, incidentally did not even notice that several BJP-ruled states including Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat had already waived recovery of fixed charges on electricity bills to the industry. Only the waiver of the fixed charge and not just a postponement of recovery could have been a real relief to the industrial consumers in the state.
It is worth noting that the government of Uttarakhand makes big claims about its seriousness towards attracting greater investment in the state. The Investors’ Summit held in Dehradun a year ago was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, himself. For a state that is claiming to be the most investment friendly state, nominal relief in the form of postponement of recovery of fixed charges on power tariff can hardly be justified, especially as, due to factors like environment sensitivity and scarcity of land, the scope for large industrial investment remains restricted. It would have been better if the government were to really take industry friendly measures in times of crisis such as the present one, when production in almost every industrial company remains stalled due to the lockdown.
MSME category steel industries are among the largest power consumers of the state. Power consumption is very high in all types of heavy industry. Due to the shutdown of factories in the month of March, all types of industrial units, including steel factories, are currently consuming very little power.
There are two types of heads in electricity bills applicable to the industrial consumers. All other items are consumption based except the fixed charges, but these are rather heavy. This fixed charge is payable as a minimum charge in steel industries and other heavy industry industries even when electricity is not being consumed. Now that the lockdown is in force in the state and the production stopped for a long time, the burden of payment of fixed charges for the MSME units is proving to be major burden for them. They are finding it difficult to sustain as the fixed charges are accruing even when the factories are shut. This is the reason that many BJP-ruled states of the country have already waived the fixed charge on electricity bills, even as Uttarakhand Government chooses merely to postpone the recovery.
Even for the common consumers, just one percent of discount offered on current bills to those who choose to pay their bills online by the due date is a nominal relief.