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Tuesday, 09 October 2012 00:00
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Arvind Kejriwal's burn-those-bills campaign is illegal and has to be dealt with in a firm manner

Whether you believe the replies given by Robert Vadra or DLF are credible, few can argue Arvind Kejriwal wasn’t within his rights to expose what he felt was a cosy deal with unstated quid pro quos. The same, however, cannot be said about his bijli-paani-satyagraha where he’s exhorting people to dump their electricity bills—and give them to him to burn—and there are photo-ops of him as the friendly neighbourhood electrician restoring connections that have been cut off for non-payment of bills. Kejriwal may be trying to bring back memories of a civil disobedience movement, but keep in mind that was against a foreign government while the electricity bills Kejriwal is protesting are from power companies licensed by an elected government, and where there are tribunals and courts to protest to.

The burden of Kejriwal’s song is that while the head of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) had said firms should lower tariffs as there was a R3,577 crore surplus in FY10 (the other members disagreed), his order was never implemented and the new DERC chief (with the members concurring) said there was a shortfall of R3,299 crore. Even assuming Kejriwal is correct that the second DERC order was mala fide, there is an appellate tribunal and even the Supreme Court to protest this. Apart from the fact that there are still about R9,000 crore worth of dues to Delhi’s electricity companies (‘regulatory assets’ is electricity jargon for this), which Kejriwal will no doubt contest, he would do well to remember that his fellow campaigner Prashant Bhushan successfully fought A Raja’s largesse in the Supreme Court, not by burning the bills of the Uninors of the world who benefited from Raja’s largesse.


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