Ensuring accountability in the power sector reform process is the key to protect consumer interests, said Mr. Sunil Mitra, Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Disinvestment, while delivering the inaugural address at the national advocacy seminar organised by CUTS International in Jaipur under a pilot project for capacity building on electricity reforms in Nepal, Bangladesh and India (RESA) supported by Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. He further said that reforms can not take place with out carrying people along.
The objective of the seminar was to disseminate and to discuss key advocacy issues of electricity consumers of Rajasthan and West Bengal. The advocacy issues emerged from the research and grassroots interface meetings held under the project in both the states.
Secretary General, CUTS International, Mr. Pradeep Singh Mehta, while addressing the seminar stressed the need for making provisions of a dedicated fund for capacity building of electricity consumers to promote their participation in the ongoing regulatory reform process, which is the main objective of the RESA project.
Former Justice and President Rajasthan State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission Mr. VS Dave called for creating awareness among electricity consumers, which is presently lacking in India. Mr. RG Gupta, Chairman Discoms (Rajasthan) commented that the main objective of the reform should be to provide better quality of services to the consumers and should not be confined to the financial turnaround of Discoms. He also disclosed various initiatives taken by Discoms in Rajasthan in this regard.
The key findings of the research conducted under the project were the need to institutionalise mechanism of consumer advocacy, independent and autonomous grievance redressal mechanism and effective regulatory measures for consumer protection besides sensitising utilities on consumer concerns and improving the quality of service. Challenges before consumers and utilities at grassroots level were shared in the seminar and the participants gave their valuable suggestions.
Mr. Roshan Lal Mewari a consumer from Chittorgarh applauded the initiative of CUTS, which enabled him to solve his electricity complaints as well as that of other consumers. Out of the enriching discussion during the seminar, the participants unanimously arrived at the recommendations for a independent grievance redressal system, need for a system of institutionalised consumer advocacy to ensure accountability of discoms, need to replicate the RESA model for promoting consume participation and the need to insulate electricity regulatory commissions and Discoms from political interference.
The seminar was attended by more than 50 delegates comprising representatives of regulatory commissions, discoms, civil society, media, government officials, academicians and subject experts.