The term power politics assumes another meaning vis-a-vis the issue of corruption in electricity services in the different states of India.
Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab were the best performers according to scores assigned by Crisil and Icra to respective state electricity departments. Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Kerala, Assam and Madhya Pradesh were medium performers while the worst performers were Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand.
Cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Surat which are served by private sector utilities have been clubbed together.
1. More than half (58%) of the respondents visited the department for at least 3 times in last one year. Of these, 36% had visited the department for paying bills. Overall, 61% of the respondents visited the department for payment of bills.
2. Reasons for visit
The major reason for visit was bill-related, including excess and non-receipt of bill. Other reasons were meter-related including meter not working, incorrect meter-reading, installation and replacement of defective meters. People also visited electricity departments over connection-related issues as well as over supply of electricity.
3. Quality of Service received and difficulties faced
Overall, 41% of those who had interacted with the Department regarded the service of the department as poor, while 32% are happy with the services.
Even in case of private utilities only 38% of the households are happy with the services. In case of Mumbai, more than half (54%) of the households interacting with the Department are happy with the services.
4. Services for which bribes are paid for
27% of the respondents who had claimed to pay bribes paid for correcting the bill. 26 % had paid bribe for a new connection.
Bribing: the modus operandi
More then one-third (35%) of the respondents claiming to pay bribe had paid money to Linesman (51% in case of south). While one-fourth (25%) had paid money to agents/ touts like documentations centers, electricity contractors, etc., 20% had paid money directly to billing employees (36% in case of North).
Who gets the bribe?
There is a variation between points of corruption between better-rated states and poorly-rated states. While the percentage of respondents claiming to pay bribe directly to the officers is comparatively lower (19%) in better rated states, the percentage of respondents giving bribes to meter readers in these states is higher.
What is the going rate?
The average amount of bribe paid to the department was estimated to be Rs1010 (Rs841 for urban households, and Rs1089 for rural households).
There was variation in the amount of bribe paid depending upon the nature of work as well. On an average, the rate of bribe for a new connection was Rs1171 while the average bribe paid for repairing service was Rs286. The value of petty corruption in Electricity Services in India totals Rs2,169 crore per annum.
Value of petty corruption in Electricity Services in India: Rs2,169 crore per annum.
Corruption and Electricity Services: some stats
Nearly 59% of households (70% of urban households and 55% of rural ones) interacted with the respective Electricity Service Departments in last one year.
More than one-tenth (12%) of all households in the country claimed to have paid bribe to get service in last one year.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of those who had sought one or other service of the department, perceived that the department was corrupt.. About 59% of the households serviced by private power utilities found those corrupt.
Nearly half (49%) of those who had interacted with the department felt that the corruption in the department had increased over last year.
More than one-fourth of those who had approached the department had adopted alternate routes like paying bribes, using influence, approaching middlemen, etc
Perception of corruption
14% of the respondents who had interacted with the department had experienced corruption every time they had visited the Department. While 62% had experienced corruption sometime or the other, only 19% of the respondents had never experienced corruption (28% in case of cities having private utilities).
Repeated visits by consumers could have been avoided by creating more avenues for bill payment, such as Drop Box in colonies, tying up with banks, payment on internet using credit cards, resident associations, etc.
More competition: The root cause of corruption in Electricity Department is due to it being a public monopoly. In certain states where power reforms have been undertaken the public monopoly has been replaced by private monopoly without actually increasing the competition. Therefore, there was no significant decline in corruption.
Improve Commercial Practices of DISCOMs
Meter reading: Citizens could be encouraged to register the meter reading, either through phone or through Internet. This could be first tried on a pilot basis.
Consumer Pass Book: A Pass Book should be given to each household. The meter reader should enter the meter reading therein and sign it. This will enable the consumer to cross check the meter reading.
Prepaid cards: Plastic token cards can be purchased in advance and inserted in the meter to get supply till credit exists. Alternatively, payment can be made in advance and meter will be activated remotely. This will avoid human error in meter reading and the need for billing.
Spot billing: Himachal Pradesh Government is considering using technology to issue spot bills. As soon as the meter reading is entered into a handheld device, a print-out of the bill can be taken and made available.
Faster Grievance Redressal: DISCOM should have call centers equipped with relevant information so that they can address customers’ queries, take complaints and inform them about the status of customers’ requests/complaints.
Implementation of Service Standards: The regulator should enforce strict penalties if the service standards are not maintained by DISCOMs.
Customer Satisfaction Surveys: The State Power Regulatory Commissions should undertake customer satisfaction surveys to monitor the quality of service provided by DISCOMS.
Meter Testing: The regulator should appoint an independent agency to get meters tested.
Call Center for Regulators: SERCs in various states should have Call Centers so that citizens can make complaints regarding pending issues / disputes with DISCOM directly and easily.
Public Hearings: SERCs should organize more public hearings in as many cities as possible so that citizens can participate in these hearings.
Simplification of Procedure: At present, for getting a new connection, a certificate is required to be obtained from licensed electrical contractor. In order to get certificate normally one has to pay bribe. Procedures like this need to be reviewed.
Source: India Corruption Study 2005