The man at the centre of anti corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal's maiden political campaign being staged in Delhi, Brijendra Singh, former chairman of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) is finally being heard.
The order he was to pass two years ago slashing power tariffs in Delhi by 23% was never passed following objections by the Delhi Government. He spent the rest of his tenure fighting for his order to be passed, till he retired.
Today his stillborn order is at the centre of a political campaign launched by anti corruption activists Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan and is meant to pave the way to their maiden electoral overs in Delhi.
The activists have been citing the order as proof of the corruption prevailing in the Government which subsequent to the two year old order raised tariffs by over 200% in Delhi. Brijender Singh broke his silence on the renewed interest in his order and told Business Standard that the tariffs being raised was totally unfair and unnecessary. He backed the activists and said that he was let down by Opposition and Government when he wanted to pass the order. But now the BJP has also taken up the issue, he said. Recalling his order he said that a day before it was to be passed, the Delhi Government came to know about it and asked for it. "It then cited some section of law and stopped DERC from issuing the tariff order," he says. It did not help that the Solicitor General or the courts intervened. "We consulted the Solicitor General who ruled that the Government order is invalid and void. We asked the state Government to withdraw objections citing what the Solicitor General said. But the state refused. Then some one filed a PIL and the state said that it would wait for orders from the High Court. By the time it came, I had retired," recalls Singh listlessly. He says that the fault is not with the DERC. "It is independent and capable of passing orders. It does not need Government approval either. But we were caught by surprise when the Government came with some objections. I still wanted to pass the order and wrote a note to the two members saying let us pass it.
One of two other members was with me. But when I wrote the note I found that I was alone and both members refused to cooperate. And the order was never passed," he says, that private companies often get their candidates into regulatory boards thus constraining independent and uninfluenced decision making. He said that was the case in the DERC also. The Government increased the tariffs twice by 25% after my order, says Singh. Asked if BJP the main opposition in Delhi never supported him, he says that the Delhi minister A K Walia often used to joke that BJP never raised any issue on Reliance. We are in Government and it may be difficult for us. But why cant they ask... BJP never raised it in Assembly but now they are taking it up just as Kejriwal is, he says. Asked if he would back the political campaign being launched by Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan asking the public to burn their electricity bills, he said he would support them in every way except for talking against the Government or attacking it. "I have worked for the Government for 43 years and I would not like to attack the Government. I can however guide anyone who needs my help in exposing wrong doings," he says. He recalls that for five years after he became chairman, every year the private companies that supply electricity in Delhi filed petitions to the DERC asking for 40 to 60% increase in tarriffs. "We found it unjustified. Ajay Maken who was power minister when power was privatised in 2002 had told me then that for the first two years tariffs will increase and then it would remain stable for three years, followed by decline in the subsequent years. But what we are seeing now is totally unjustified."