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Double whammy for power, water consumers in Uttarakhand

The rise in tariffs has upset both, consumers and industry associations in the hill state. The latter has said they may move to other states like UP. That’s not all. Opposition parties have piled ridicule on the government for having lowered the price of liquor in the new excise policy.

April 01, 2023 / 01:13 PM IST
The cost of electricity for both low tension (LT) and high tension (HT) industries has gone up by 11 per cent in the state from April 1.

The cost of electricity for both low tension (LT) and high tension (HT) industries has gone up by 11 per cent in the state from April 1.

In the new financial year 2023-24 (FY24), consumers in Uttarakhand will have to shell out more for electricity and water, thanks to the hefty rise in tariffs. The 11 percent rise in industrial tariffs (???) has also raised widespread resentment in the sector with leading business associations calling for an immediate rollback.

However, for booze lovers, there is some respite. In the new excise policy, the government has slashed the prices of liquor by Rs 100-300 per bottle in its bid to stop smuggling from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

These moves have invited severe criticism from the Opposition which has launched a stinging attack on the government.

Uttarakhand Electricity Regulatory Commission (UERC) has ordered a 9.64 percent overall rise in power tariffs for FY24, a move that would affect 24 lakh consumers in the hill state. The cost of electricity for both low tension (LT) and high tension (HT) industries has gone up by 11 per cent in the state from April 1. “The Commission has restricted the tariff hike to around 9.64 percent with respect to tariffs approved, as against the proposal of Uttarakhand Power Corporation Limited (UPCL) of tariff hike of about 16.96 percent and overall tariff hike proposed by all the utilities of about 28.57 percent,” UERC said in its order. Electricity rates were increased thrice last year. UPCL, in its petition before the UERC, stated that it was seeking a tariff increase of 16.96 percent in order to meet the cost of power purchase and other expenses.

Significantly, UERC has also directed UPCL to issue monthly bills and provide rebate to consumers who are paying bills digitally.
The Uttarakhand Jal Sansthan, the government-controlled water supplier, has taken approval from the government to increase the water tariff by 15 per cent. Due to this, water will become costlier by Rs 150-200 per quarter across the state from April 1. Neelima Garg, Chief General Manager, Uttarakhand Jal Sansthan, said water bills increase every year and this will not put much burden on the consumers.

Reacting to the development, Uttarakhand Congress president Karan Mahara slammed the government for increasing the tariffs for both water and electricity. “What is happening in Uttarakhand? The government has increased the prices of essential services like power and gas, but lowered the prices of liquor. Everybody in Uttarakhand is now saying ‘Blender (liquor brand) is cheap and Cylinder (cooking gas) is expensive’.”

AAP state organisation coordinator Jot Singh Bisht also lambasted the government on the issue saying his party would raise the matter in a big way in the state. By increasing the prices of gas, the government has poured cold water on the stoves of poor people, Bisht said.

Industries Association of Uttarakhand (IAU) President Pankaj Gupta has urged the government to provide immediate relief against the UERC order. “In this way, the industries, especially MSMEs, will migrate to neighbouring states like Uttar Pradesh where the industrial environment is now much better,” said Gupta. Citing the example of his own Dehradun-based Satya Industries, an MSME unit, Gupta said he would have to shell out Rs 3,000 more on average against the average bill of Rs 20,000 per month in FY23.

Yogesh Jindal, Chairman of Kashipur-based SPNG group, which manufactures acrylic yarn, has also called for relief from the hefty tariff hike. “Instead of providing more sops to industries, the government is forcing them to shut units and look for opportunities in other states,” said Jindal.

Shakeel Sidiqui of Galwalia Ispat Udyog Ltd, in his petition before the UERC, stated that instead of a tariff hike, UPCL should focus on its own line losses, power thefts and improve its own efficiency.

Ajay Bhargava of the Hotel Association of Mussoorie said this year UPCL in order to meet its losses amounting to Rs 1,507.13 crore, has raised the electricity tariff substantially. “The losses are primarily due to negligence and incompetence of UPCL and, hence, the increase of tariff should be completely withdrawn,” Bhargava said.

Under the central industrial package scheme, scores of industries had set up units in the hill state with the government establishing a series of industrial estates at Pantnagar, Haridwar and Dehradun. Top-notch companies like Nestle, Britannia, Bajaj Auto, Parle, Tata Motors and others had set up their units in these industrial estates to take advantage of the sops.

Shishir Prashant is a senior journalist. Views are personal and do not represent the stand of this publication.