Sunday, January 28, 2007

"YOU are the Government"

"YOU are the Government" ... What an empowering statement … think about it ....

So stop complaining ... GET UP ... and RUN your country ... Run your State ... RUN your City !!

Say it aloud to yourself .. “I AM THE GOVERNMENT” … the rest of the people who sit in the Govt Offices ... and the Parliament ... are just our Representatives … “Govt Reps”. (I prefer to use the phrase “Govt Reps” ... as opposed to “Govt Servant” ... which I believe is very derogatory).

I was recently in New Delhi (for the REL hearing, as you know) and I met an enlightened soul who, in the middle of an intense discussion turned around and said ... but “YOU are the Government … if there are people in the Govt Offices who are not protecting your interests and rights ... change them … !!”

A simple, powerful, positive thought ... from a simply great soul ! Thank you, PSS ... and God bless you, for reminding me …

Thursday, February 1 is Voting day in Mumbai.

If YOU don’t take responsibility for electing YOUR own Rep ... those who DO go and VOTE ... will get the Rep of THEIR choice … and YOU can sit back and keep complaining … for the next five years …

And the next time a candidate comes to your house asking for your vote - if seeking re-election, first ask him/her what he/she has done during their tenure and how much of YOUR money have they spent ... and WHERE …

If seeking to be elected for the first time, ask for their agenda … and firm plan of action … for improving YOUR area … and note down all their contact numbers and addresses… to keep a check on them later …

Choose you OWN Rep ... keep them accountable … get them to make their functioning transparent ... be vigilant about their transgressions … at the same time, empower them to protect your interests … sure you can’t do that alone ... but then 10-20-50 people getting together can make all the difference !

See the Local Area Citizen’s Group Charter by Karmayog on

See what’s being done by the Juhu Citizens Group at ... and by Loksatta, on

PLEASE GO VOTE ... and take responsibility of running your own city ... or else STOP complaining about what's happening around you.

... if YOU abdicate YOUR responsibility ... you have NO right to complain ...!!

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Monday, January 22, 2007

REL Penalised at ATE hearing !!!

This is with reference to the REL appeal at the Appellate Tribunal of Electricity, New Delhi, to put an additional burden on us of over a 1000 crores...

Well, I attended that hearing.

Here are brief details of what happened ...

As per the Notice issued to us, 3 of us from the Bombay Small Scale Industries Association (BSSIA) and 2 independent consumers turned up on Jan 18th, to protest against REL's proposed hike.

At the hearing, NO other consumer organisation from Mumbai (or anywhere else) turned up.

Though we (and one representative from MERC) were present, the REL counsel, took an adjournment, without our consent, and left !!

However, when we brought this matter to the attention of the Hon'ble Bench, they were gracious and just, to list the matter on Board again the next day and issued orders to all concerned to be present.

On 19th, again, NO other consumer organisation from Mumbai turned up !!

Shameful !!

But, Prayas Energy, (a Pune NGO) showed up and made a representation against the hike (see DNA press report here ).

The BSSIA is of the opinion that since REL does not have a License, they have no right to make the appeal, at all.

The REL counsel was asked why no consent was sought from the BSSIA, especially since they themselves had sent a Notice to BSSIA and about 8 other persons to be present on Jan 18th.

REL had no reply to offer and again requested that the matter be adjourned with a short date of Feb 5th, which they had taken earlier.

We all were ready to have discussions (known as "arguing the matter") and so were the MERC counsel and the Prayas representative, but REL did not want to ... and kept insisting on an adjournment, just because some senior counsel of theirs was not available.

What a reason ! Especially when all the others were present to argue the matter. Such gross misuse of the system leads to a waste of time (of the people and the Courts) and public money - which eventually YOU and I will pay for - as part of our electricity bills !!

The Hon'ble Court then penalised REL for calling everyone to Delhi and then asking for another date - consequently, making everyone come again. Though the press report says that BSSIA asked for reimbursement, thats not true.

The Hon'ble Court then awarded all those present (Prayas, BSSIA and other individuals, but not MERC) an amount of Rs. 1 Lakh, as damages.

The Hon'ble Court was very eager to hear the consumers (Thank God .. & the Hon'ble Court !!) and asked for our confirmation for the next date. We requested for a date after Feb 17th and a date of Feb 20th, was agreed upon, by all present.

So, till Feb 20th - this matter is staved off - so we all can breathe a little easy, as the "AEC charges" may not be levied in our next set of bills also.

While we will continue to fight such irresponsible hikes, the important questions are:
- Where did the nominated Mumbai consumer organisation (Mumbai Grahak Panchayat) go ?
- Why didn't they attend ? Especially after being quoted in the Press as having a commitment to protest (see Hindustan Times, dated 14-1-2007)
- They could have submitted a written protest - but didn't - WHY ?
- Why is there no accountability ?
- How does MERC even authorise such entities ?
- What should consumers do when their (supposedly) own representatives do not perform ?

The last question is very important in the perspective that BMC elections are around the corner. (More on this later).

This experience just shows the machinations of large corporations and how they wield their power to manipulate the system.

Sign the online petition for removing this unholy exclusivity and let's pave the way for competition - so that we don't have to deal with this again...Ever ! Do that here:

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

This information has been posted in good faith, in the interest of
public good, without prejudice.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Does REL have something to hide ??

By now, you all know that Reliance Energy does quite a few businesses:
~ Electricity Generation, Transmission & Distribution
~ Electricity Trading
~ Mumbai Metro Rail
~ Reliance Bluemagic D-T-H
~ Highway Construction

You also know how they are not allowed to do any non-electricity business without permission.

You also know that REL does not have the License for Mumbai area.

And you also know how they are flouting all these rules, just because we consumers do not have any alternative.

Anyway, strangely, Metro Rail, DTH and Highway Construction do not find any mention on REL's website ( either in the "About us" or in the "Company Profile" or in the "Group companies" .. or anywhere else ...

Does REL want to HIDE these facts ????

Another thing ... while the Mumbai electricity business is being done under the name of "Reliance Energy", the New Delhi electricity business is in the name of "BSES" ...!!!!!!

The REL website of the Delhi business is named !!

And the two subsidiaries are called "BSES Rajdhani Power Limited' and "BSES Yamuna Power Limited."

Ha ! .. A Mumbai company changes its name in Mumbai ... but retains the "Bombay" part when doing business in New Delhi !

Oh, and there's more .. REL has gone the extra mile and has displayed prominently the electricity License of these two companies, here ..

Open the pdf file of the License, check Point No. 5.2 (d) which says that a License cannot be sold transfered, assigned, etc ... without permission. (This is standard for all electricity Licenses).

Well, REL .. now how about displaying the Mumbai Suburban License as well .. or do you have something to hide ?????

We consumers do not have time for such shenanigans – let's sign in and end this monopoly, so we don’t have to play policeman all the time.

Please sign the online petition at
and lets remove this monopoly once and for all.

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

REL wants you to pay another Rs. 1660 crores !!

Yes, you read that right…!!

If you thought that REL was going to rollback any of the hike levied in October ... think again ..

REL has gone and appealed against MERC, to the Appellate Tribunal of Electricity (ATE) in New Delhi. The hearing is slated for Jan 18th.

Here are the details:

A) In addition to the charges that REL wants us to pay currently, REL has appealed to ATE to “approve” the following additional expenses:

697 cr for Employee Costs
309 cr for Administration & General Exps
175 cr for Income Tax
127 cr for Repairs & Maintenance

Total Rs. 1308 cr

B) If you recall BSES had also given rebates and discounts to a few industrial and commercial users like L&T, TOI, M&M, etc .. well REL wants that Rs. 350 cr back as well.

C) MERC had asked REL to cut down its Transmission & Distribution losses by 0.5% .. from 12.1% to 11.6% .. REL refuses to agree to this also, so you can safely add a few more crores.

So we’re looking down the barrel of the gun…. for at least Rs. 1658 cr (1308+350).

Divide this by the number of consumers (25 lakh) and we get an additional bill of approx Rs. 6,600 per year, in ADDITION to the ridiculously high Oct-Nov-Dec type bills.

MERC had disallowed these amounts and had recorded various reasons for doing this. For instance, MERC did not allow the full income tax amount claimed by REL, as REL is doing other business and they were not able to figure out how much profit was to be ascribed to these other businesses and hence the total Income Tax was not allowed.

Now here are my issues (you knew I had them, didn’t you ?)

1. The Electricity Act, 2003 states that an appeal can be made within 45 days only, unless there are valid reasons. REL has filed its appeal against the 1-7-2004 Order, on 30-10-2006, nearly two years later ! Why did ATE even admit the matter ?

2. The Electricity Tariff Policy 2006 released by the Government of India on 6-1-2006 states that past losses are not allowed to be carried through, unless they are on account of “uncontrollable factors.” Also, it states that suppliers can charge less than approved rates, as long as they do not claim those discounts/rebates again in their Revenue statements. By this logic, REL cannot charge back this 350 cr – as it was a voluntary discount given by them. There were no “uncontrollable factors” and neither was there any compulsion to offer these discounts.

3. In any case, if 350 cr of “wrong” discounts were given – they should go back to those persons/companies and claim that back only from them – why penalize EVERYONE ?

4. With so much of capital investment planned and done, REL cannot even accept a small reduction in transmission & distribution loss ?? Then why undertake so much of modernization and upgradation ??

REL is flouting all rules and yet is attempting to claim all benefits under the Electricity Act - and it still doesn't have a Licence in its own name - as admitted by MERC again on 19-12-2006 !!

Now, if REL wins this case, you can just about forget trying to “reverse” any of the existing hikes, they will be back with a vengeance to claim higher bills from you and me and the rest of us ...

On behalf of 25 lakh consumers, we are fighting a lone battle against this Goliath .... and are running short of resources ... severely short ...

Can anyone help ??

Well ... and that's how I feel ...

Monday, January 01, 2007

BEST's Electricity Rate hike postponed !!

It was a victory, of sorts, of heightened consumer awareness and consumer participation.

At the Public Hearing held by the MERC on 29-12-2006, the BEST's Aggregate Revenue Requirement (ARR) and Tariff hike for the island-city area, presented by their GM, was withdrawn and POSTPONED to Feb 2007 !

In fact this proposal was not even approved by BEST's own Committee, before presentation to MERC/public for discussion.

In addition Rakshpal Abrol, President, Bombay Small Scale Industries Association (BSSIA), also pointed out that as per section 62 (4) of The Electricity Act, 2003 that governs determination of Tariff, "No Tariff or part of any tariff may ordinarily be amended, more frequently than once in any financial year, except in respect of any changes expressly permitted under the terms of any fuel surcharge formula as may be specified."

And since MERC had already passed a BEST Tariff Order on 9-3-2006, which had been implemented from 1-10-2006, therefore MERC is now not empowered to change the Tariff, within one financial year.

MERC agreed and postponed the ARR & Tariff proposal for 2006-07 and the matter will now only be heard in Feb 2007 where the Tariff will be finalised for a three-year period under the new Multi-Year Tariff principle.

During the hearing 3 of the 4 nominated consumer-oriented organisations were absent and the only other designated Objectors who spoke were Rakshpal Abrol, Kirit Somaiya, Sandeep N. Ohri and Navin M. Shetty.

Incidentally, BEST was incorrectly proposing the Tariff under sections of a repealed Act, which was also pointed out by the BSSIA.

As a result, over 10 lakh consumers in the BEST supply area will now have NO tariff hike.

This is the kind of result that alert consumerism can bring about.

Here's wishing you a safe, peaceful and more AWARE 2007 !!

Well ... and that's how I feel ...