Apropos the editorial “Power populism” (February 13), distribution of cash and liquor to electorates before elections has been replaced these days by freebies like free power, water, bicycles, laptops, gold ornaments for marriage, medical treatment etc. at public expense. The provision of free power leads to misuse, an example being farmers leaving their electric pump sets on through night, leading to depletion of groundwater and salinity of land parcels. Similarly, in a recent report, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India said that a third of PM Ujjwala Yojana beneficiaries failed to book replacements leading to the belief that they might have disposed of their LPG cylinders in the open market, going back to pollution-causing cooking mediums like wood and coal.
The much-touted UDAY scheme has only managed to shift the burden to the state governments instead of reducing power theft and achieving efficiency in operations. According to a Brookings India study, Discoms owed a whopping ~418 billion to power-generating companies as of end of February 2019. The aim of every government should be to ensure availability of 24x7 power to all at an affordable rate. Instead of committing free power, the Kejriwal government would do well to credit the money to the bank accounts of the intended beneficiaries.
Ganga Narayan Rath, Hyderabad
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