New Delhi: Scores of BJP activists led by Delhi unit chief Vijay Goel on Saturday courted arrest here today while protesting against power tariff hike in front of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit`s residence.
Upping the ante, Goel alleged that power tariff in the city was being hiked frequently at the "behest" of the Chief and challenged her for a public debate on the issue.
"Power tariff has been increased at the behest of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. The Delhi government, which is also 50 per cent share holder in the discoms, is hand in glove with DERC and power companies," he said while addressing BJP supporters on way to gherao Dikshit`s official residence.
Goel challenged the Chief Minister for a public debate on the issue on "any platform" including TV channel.
"I challenge Dikshit for an open debate on the issue. We will prove that power tariff is being increased with connivance of the government, Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission and the private power companies," he said.
The power tariff in the city was hiked by 22 per cent in 2011 followed by five per cent hike in February last year. The tariff was hiked by up to two per cent in May last year and again by 26 per cent for domestic consumers in July last year. The tariff was hiked by up to three per cent last month.
The DERC is again considering hiking the tariff. The Chief Minister has been defending the action.
BJP activists squatted in front of Dikshit`s official residence at 3, Motilal Nehru marg in Central Delhi and demanded her resignation.
The activists led by Goel later courted arrest. They were taken to Tuglaq Road police station from where they were released.
The Delhi BJP chief yesterday had held a two-hour-long meeting with DERC chairman PD Sudhakar and two other members of the commission during which he tried to corner them on hiking the tariff. Goel had also demanded resignation of Sudhakar saying he has totally failed to protect the interests of the consumers.
Goel said during his discussion with the DERC chairman and members, one of the members JP Singh admitted that he was the director of all the three power companies. Goel had questioned Singh`s continuation at DERC saying how a person who was member of the three power companies can become part of the statutory body.
A report by NGO Chetna last month claimed that private distribution companies in Delhi have billed the consumers an additional Rs 4,500 crore in the last five years for electricity that was never actually supplied.
The report said the discoms have been billing the consumers Rs 900 crore annually for five years by charging for electricity generated through Residual Back Flow caused by absence of "three-phased neutrals" in lakhs of electronic metres.
On May 4, 2010, the Delhi government, using a special power, had stalled DERC`s decision to announce the annual tariff for 2010-11 till it re-examined the demands from discoms to increase the rates.
The DERC, which was making last minute preparations to announce the new tariff next day, after receiving the government directive had indicated that it had planned to cut down the tariff by 20 to 25 per cent as discoms would have a surplus of around Rs 4,000 crore if the existing tariff was not changed.
Although DERC was strongly arguing for a cut in tariff, the three-member regulator, following retirement and subsequent appointment of two new members, gave indication of taking a sympathetic approach to the demands of the discoms and hiked the tariff several times.
The government`s notification, stalling the tariff order was quashed by Delhi High Court in February, describing the intervention as "absolutely unjustified, unwarranted, untenable".