Consumer forum flays govt for not keeping word on tariff hike for farm sector

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Bhubaneswar: A day after Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC) announced there will be no power tariff hike for any category of consumers in the 2016-17 financial year, a power consumer forum here has criticized the State government for not keeping its promise on urging the regulatory body to withdraw tariff hike on agriculture sector.

In March last year, OERC had increased the tariff for electricity used for agricultural purpose by 40 paise a unit – a rise of 36 per cent for 2015-16. Since the regulatory body has not increased the tariff for the sector, it would continue for the coming financial yea too.

But after the OERC’s tariff revision, Energy minister Pranab Prakash Das had assured that the State government would move the OERC to roll back the hike for the farm sector.

On March 30, 2015, after a debate over the issue in the Assembly, Energy minister Pranab Prakash Das had told reporters, “The energy department has decided to file a review petition in the OERC. We will seek a roll back of the hike announced for the farm sector keeping in view the farmers’ interest. The State government will request OERC to adjust the hike through cross subsidy tariff order.”

What has irked the consumer federation is the fact that the State government has failed to keep its promise on the issue though one year has passed and the OERC has already announced the tariff for the ensuing financial year.

“The State government, after a scathing attack from the Opposition wanted to show that it is with the farmers and promised to urge OERC for a roll back in power tariff for the farm sector. But what is the result? Where have the rosy words of the government gone?” asked Electricity Consumers’ Association president Ramesh Satapathy.

The consumers’ body has threatened to take the issue to streets.

“We will expose the State government’s lackadaisical approach towards the farming community by raising the issue across Odisha. In some cases, this has led to farmer suicides in the State,” Electricity Consumers Association secretary Ravi Das stated.

Interestingly, when OERC officials were approached to find out about the fate of the State government’s appeal regarding the power tariff roll back, they said the requisition was not fulfilling the criteria.

“The approach lacked a legal framework and that’s why OERC didn’t consider it,” Priyabrata Pattnaik, Director, Regulatory Affairs (OERC), said.

Meanwhile, the state government, already on back foot in the farmer suicide cases, has said it is working to resolve the matter.

“BJD government is pro-farmer and we are working to solve it as soon as possible,” BJD legislator Dibya Shankar Mishra said.

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