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Seminar on the Electricity Issues at Tripura

Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), in collaboration with the Consumer Protection Association (CPA), organised a one-day seminar discussing the electricity issues in Tripura, as part of  the project "Accelerating Clean Energy Transition by Improving Stakeholder Participation for Electricity Governance in India". The event was held on 09 March 2024 at Agartala Press Club, Tripura.

The programme had invited speakers such as Mr. D. Radhakrishnan, Chairman,Tripura Electricity Regulatory Commission (TERC) and  Ms.Dalia Shah, Member,Tripura State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (SCDRC). 35 participants from voluntary organizations, teacher associations, self-help Groups, and domestic consumers participated in the seminar. 

Mr. George Cheriyan, Working President, Consumer Protection Association (CPA), extended a warm welcome to all the speakers and participants. He provided a brief overview of the significance of electricity in our modern lives and how it has become an  essential need in life.    He further explained the electricity sector’s structure,  including companies for generation, transmission and distribution that serve consumers. CPA  has pledged to organise workshops, seminars, and capacity-building programs to empower people with knowledge about the electricity sector. 

Mr.George Cheriyan, gave the welcome address to the participants 

G.N. Bharath Ram, researcher, CAG, presented the significance of launching a project in Tripura. The project aims to empower consumers and enable their greater participation in the electricity sector, while also enhancing their understanding of electricity governance. During his presentation, he discussed the project's goals in detail and explained how it will benefit the people of Tripura. He elaborated on the various activities that will be undertaken as part of the project, including awareness campaigns, capacity-building programs, and initiating Local Electricity Forums. He explained how these activities will help consumers understand the various aspects of the electricity sector and enable them to participate in the decision-making process. He emphasized the need for a collaborative effort between the government, utilities, and consumers to achieve the project's objectives. 

Mr.D.Radhakrishnan, Chairman, Tripura Electricity Regulatory Commission (TERC), highlighted the critical role that electricity plays in our daily lives. He appreciated the program's significant goal of accelerating the transition towards clean energy and promoting consumer participation in electricity governance. Mr.D.Radhakrishnan also pointed out that Tripura is the first state in the North-Eastern Region of India to achieve 100% electrification, which is a remarkable achievement. 

Mr.D.Radhakrishnan gave an overview of the Tripura electricity sector

He emphasized that TERC is committed to promptly addressing consumers' comments and suggestions regarding tariff rates, miscellaneous charges and other complaints. It has instructed the DISCOMs to address the consumer complaints speedily.  He explained that the Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum in Tripura State Electricity Corporation Limited differs slightly from those in other states. Tripura has a designated “Grievance Redressal Officer” (GRO) situated in the respective divisions to handle the complaints. The DISCOM has  enabled  easy access to the GRO, making it  easy for consumers to seek redressal.  Mr. Radhakrishnan encouraged the participants to adopt renewable energy sources such as solar power and biogas generation, which are environmentally friendly and sustainable. He stressed that renewable energy is the way forward, and everyone should work towards making it an integral part of our daily lives.

The organisers had extended an invitation to Mr. Abhishek Singh, IAS, Secretary of Department of Power, Govt. of Tripura to be a speaker. However, Mr. Abhishek Singh was unable to attend due to  a situation of uncertainty, and sent a message instead.  In his message, Mr. Abhishek Singh emphasized the importance of access to electricity as an indicator of development and improving standards of living for citizens. He highlighted that it is closely linked to the overall social development of a country. Meanwhile, the Government of Tripura is emphasizing on clean energy and has taken significant steps to promote solar-based electricity services in 1158 Gram Panchayats and Areas Autonomous District Village Councils across the state. The move is expected to result in a reduction of power tariffs.  He expressed that this program will help raise public awareness among the common people to come forward and contribute towards achieving the "Energy Vision 2030 Roadmap of Tripura". 

Participants who attended the workshop

Ms. Dalia Shah, Member, State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (SCDRC), talked about the commission's core objective of helping consumers resolve their issues without any hindrance. According to her, the Council has always been watchful in addressing consumer complaints. In 2023, the council received 24 complaints related to electricity, out of which 19 were resolved in favour of the consumers. The majority of the complaints were related to burnt meters, excessive billing, and delay in the service connections. A few complainants were awarded compensation for not complying with standards. 

Electricity issues in Tripura

  1. The  DISCOM officials handle complaints differently based on the consumer’s location. The resolution process is faster in urban areas compared to rural areas. For example, power cuts are more common in rural areas, and it takes more than half a day to two days to resolve complaints. In urban areas, complaints are usually resolved within a few hours. 
  2. In certain rural districts, the accuracy of meter assessments has become a major concern for electricity consumers. Due to inadequate monitoring, meter readings are not taken on time which results in the accumulation of bills for months, leading to higher electricity bills. This places a significant burden on consumers’ financial resources. 
  3. Consumers who have applied for new service connections for their agricultural lands have been waiting for several years, without any progress. They have constantly followed up with the concerned authorities, with no redress.  

During the program, the participants shared their thoughts and experiences. 

  1. They expressed that it was a new and informative experience for them to hear the Chairman's speech, where he explained how the tariff rates are calculated for the consumer category. 
  2. The participants further discussed the idea of formulating a Local Electricity Forum that would help consumers get together and discuss their electricity related problems. They believed that collective participation would empower them to solve their problems on their own. 
  3. Overall, the participants acknowledged the importance of the project and expressed their support in creating awareness about it.

Mr. Amrit Lal Saha, during his speech

Mr. Amrit Lal Saha, President, CPA, expressed gratitude to the guests and participants and concluded the programme with a vote of thanks.

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