Thursday, October 6, 2011

Special School for Mentally Retarded charged Commercial rates for electricity supply by BSES

Dear Friends,

We have seen a paradigm shift in the recent years especially in the way issues related to persons with disabilities are looked at. Call it a result of an awareness in the world about  disability or a very active disability community in India but we see that things are changing and many positive initiatives are in pipeline.

However, as an activist, I feel  the whole focus of disability community and hence the government is more in to laws specific to disabilities such as the Disabilities Act or the National Trust Act or the Rehabilitation Council of India Act or Mental Health Act etc.  It is an irony that several codes, enactments, rules not directly dealing with disabilities continue to use unacceptable and undignified terminologies to refer to persosn with disabilities and also discriminate against certain disabilities.

One such example that has come to my notice recently is the Supply Code and Performance Standards Regulations, 2007 (hereinafter referred to as “the Regulation”)  issued by the Electricity Regulatory Commission, in exercise of the powers conferred on it by section 50 of the Electricity Act 2003, read with sections 57, 86 and 181 of the said Act.

The Regulation in Chapter II, Para 4 a (vii) provides domestic connections to organisations working for the welfare and education of persons with disabilities. However it uses very undignified and archaic language as below:

Extract of DERC Supply Code and Performance Standards Regulations, 2007 
(to read the full Regulation please click here: SC and PS Regulations 2007)

“4. Classification of Supply  The Voltage of Supply and number of  phases shall be determined by the Licensee depending on the Contract  Demand / Sanctioned Load of the  Consumer. 

(i)Domestic Connection

a. Connections under this category are provided for consumers as specified below:
(i) Residential consumers
(ii) Hostels of recognized/aided  institutions of Municipal Corporation of Delhi or Govt. of the NCT of Delhi.
(iii) Staircase lighting in residential flats separately metered
(iv) Compound lighting, lifts and water pumps etc., for drinking  water supply and fire fighting equipment in residential  complexes.
(v) Dispensary/Hospitals/Public Libraries/School/Working Women’s  Hostel/ Orphanage/ Charitable homes run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi or the Government of the NCT of Delhi.
(vi) Small Health Centers approved by the Department of Health, Government of NCT of Delhi for  providing Charitable Services only.
(vii) Recognized Centers for welfare of blind, deaf and dumb,  spastic children, physically handicapped persons as approved  by the Government of NCT of Delhi.
(viii) Places of worship.
(ix) Cheshire homes/orphanage.
(x) Electric crematoriums”

The said erroneous construction clearly uses undignified language and while doing so also misses  certain disabilities such Mental Retardation, Mental Illness, Low Vision, Leprosy cured, Children with Multiple Disabilities, Children with Autism and several such disabilities which have been included in The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 and The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation & Multiple Disabilities Act 1999.

Such a regulation is susceptible to subjective interpretation and this is proving to be true in case of Delhi based organisation, Sahan Centre for Special Education (Mental Retardation) run by Federation for the Welfare of the Mentally Retarded (India).  Federation receives grant-in-aid from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,Govt of India.

Now the officials of the Electric companies i.e. BSES are refusing to grant the Electricity supply under domestic category to those institution/schools/NGOs who are working with children with mental retardation and infact all other disabilities  which are not indicated in the Regulations. Also they insist that the institution should be recognised by Govt of NCT of Delhi. They refuse to accept an NGO for domestic connection even if it is recognised by Govt. of India and getting grants from them!

Such a fallacious reading of the regulation is entirely illegal and illogical. The erstwhile DESU (Delhi Electricity Suppy Undertaking ) did not make such a distinction and the NGOs working with children with Mental Retardation  were also given the domestic connection as per the information received. However the BSES has started charging them the commercial rate for the electric supply.

The issue has been taken up with the DERC and Govt. of Delhi. Since the Regulation is under revision, this is high time that appropriate corrections are made in the DERC Regulation as above to inlcude all disabilities to remove subjectivities that may lead to such situations.

I hope the DERC and Govt. of NCT of Delhi would take appropriate action in this regard.


Subhash Chandra Vashishth

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