Letters to BS: Power subsidy is not populism, they are to bridge inequality

If this electricity is diverted to small consumers, that will be useful and economical.
This refers to the editorial “Power Populism” (February 13). This has been written in the context of power subsidies being given in Delhi and in West Bengal. I do not agree that giving power subsidy is populism. All subsidies are not economically undesirable. All countries, even the developed ones, give it. In England, orphan children or those who have lost one parent, are given subsidy to sustain themselves. They give social security benefits in different forms. In all countries, subsidies are being given to bridge inequality. Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee has argued in favour of putting money in the hands of those having Jan Dhan accounts. Subsidy has been given to the passengers in Konkan Railways and different suburban metro railway networks in the form of exemption. That is not criticised since it is not transparent. Transparent subsidy is better than hidden subsidy. West Bengal is wasting electricity by excessively illumining some of the streets leading to the airport in Kolkata. If this electricity is diverted to small consumers, that will be useful and economical.

Electricity boards in states have not been paid by the transmission companies, the editorial says. But that is irrelevant to the issue. If the state government pays the transmission companies or electricity boards to make a lesser bill for the marginal users such as those consuming 200/400 units, then there is no populism involved in it. It is popular but not populist. There is a clear cut difference between the two. It is a subsidy to the poor population and it will bring down the inequality of income in the country.

Sukumar Mukhopadhyay
Former member, CBEC
New Delhi

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