Coming down heavily on the Jammu and Kashmir government for lack of seriousness to recover power tariff arrears, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India said the state has been able to “poorly” realise electric charges in five years, resulting in arrears of over Rs 1,992 crore. “The percentage of recovery of electric charges including the duty against the realisable arrears (amounting to Rs 3,868.52 crore) ranged between 40 and 60 per cent during the period 2011-12 to 2015-16,” the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on the revenue sector in J&K for the year ended March 31, 2016, said.
The audit noticed that despite reducing electricity arrears of the state government departments in year 2013-14 by Rs 1,019.62 crore and waiving surcharge of domestic consumers under amnesty scheme by Rs 39.26 crore during 2012-13 and 2015-16, the arrears of electric charges including duty increased from Rs 833.25 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 1,996.22 crore at the end of March 2016, the report said. It said that the test check of 8 (out of 27) electric divisions during the period 2011-12 to 2015-16 (five years period) brought out arrears of Rs 645.62 crore in 6153 cases. Giving further details, the report said that there are 739 cases with arrears amounting to Rs 473.92 crore and each one among them owes arrears to the government to the tune of Rs 10 lakh and above.
Similarly, Rs 42.52 crore is shown arrears against 600 consumers, each one of them owes arrears ranging between 5 to 10 lakh and 4,814 consumers owe Rs 129.18 crore as power tariff arrears and each one among them has an arrear ranging between Rs 1 lakh to 5 lakh. Out of 6,153 such cases, notices has been given to only 296 consumers and the connections to 107 such consumers have been disconnected apart from 29 such cases which are been pursued through the court, the report said. Taking a dig at the Power Development Department (PDD), the CAG report said that writ of demands for recovery of electricity arrears of Rs 645.62 crore has been issued by the departmental authorities against only 296 out of 6,153 consumers (5 per cent) during the period from 2011-12 to 2015 -16.
The department had not referred/declared any arrears to be collected as per the provisions of the J&K Land Revenue Act, 1996 and no mechanism was in place in the department for identifying cases to be declared as arrears of revenue, it said. The chief engineer (EM&RE) Jammu stated (August 2016) that the department has initiated steps for recovery of arrears by holding review meetings, issuing updated bills to the consumers, conducting inspections and effecting disconnections wherever necessary.
The reply is not acceptable as the arrears were pending for periods ranging from 2 to 9 years and such prolonged delay or inaction was indicative of lack of seriousness in pursuance of these arrears of seriousness in pursuance of these arrears. Moreover, the recovery of electricity charges may be time-barred under the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Electricity Act, 2010 while recovery of electricity duty as arrears of land revenue is unlikely given the long delay and it may be irrecoverable.