Bridging the trust deficit between Consumers and Electricity Institutions through constructive engagements in Rajasthan

March 28, 2019, Jaipur

CUTS International and Bask Research Foundation, a consumer facing global policy research and advocacy group, organised a launch event for the project ‘Capacity building of Electricity consumers (CBEC)’ named ‘Electricity Governance in Rajasthan: Putting Consumers First’. The CBEC project is being implemented by CUTS International and Bask Research Foundation, with support from Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation (SSEF). For the first phase of project, it will be implemented across four districts of Rajasthan namely, Sawai Madhopur, Chittorgarh, Jodhpur and Bikaner. The objective of the project shall be to improve participation of consumers in regulatory affairs through capacity building on right and responsibilities.

It was pointed out that the current discontent within consumers regarding service quality and poor financial health of DISCOMs boils down to issues with overall governance of the sector. There is a need to undertake political economy analysis of the sector to find ways to alter the existing equilibrium. It has to be a long term concerted approach and use of media, both traditional and social, could be an important instrument in achieving the overall objectives of the CBEC project.

It was highlighted that the project should adopt a strategy where consumers and distribution companies, both benefits through the interventions. There is a trust deficit between consumer and distribution companies, and both of them need to work in tandem, in order to overcome the trust deficit. While there is a need to bring transparency within the regulatory process and operation of distribution companies, consumer also need to be accountable while availing the services.

Further suggestions were made to adopt a multi-prong strategy engaging local communities such as Self Help Groups (SHGs), local civil society organizations and community organized specially run by women to make the impact of project sustainable. It was stated that though Rajasthan DISCOMs have been implemented consumer centric initiatives, taking those initiatives to rural grassroots consumers is challenging. Therefore, implementation of these kind of projects are necessary and a step in the right direction.

Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International, Vivek Sen, Program Manager, Power, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, Suresh Chouhan, Director (Technical), JVVNL, Ashok Pendse, Consumer Advocate, Maharashtra, V. P. Raja, Former Chairperson, Maharasthra Electricity Regulatory Commission, Y G Murlidharan, Former Consumer Advocate, Karnataka Electricity Regulator Commission (KERC), Ramashankar Awasthi, Director, Energy Mantra participated in the event.

The event received participation (40-45) from distribution companies, office of ombudsman, civil society organizations, academia and experts working across electricity consumer issues in Rajasthan. Various interventions were made by the stakeholders during the discourse.

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