Thiruvananthapuram: It is habitual for the CPM leaders to dispute the reports of popular vernacular dailies like Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi, especially if these reports are against the government or the party. According to the CPM, these dailies are part of a larger bourgeois conspiracy against the LDF government.
So in the Assembly on Monday, the Opposition UDF used a report in the daily the CPM trusts most, its mouthpiece Deshabhimani, to corner the government on the power tariff hike.
In its July 13 report, Deshabhimani had provided figures showing that Kerala State Electricity Board Limited had been recording profits for the last four fiscals. In 2018-19, Deshabhimani said the profit was ₹208 crore. In 2019-20, it was ₹166 crore. In 2020-21, it was ₹150 crore, and in 2021-22, the working profit was ₹1,400 crore.
Therefore, while moving an adjournment motion against the recent power tariff hike in the Assembly, the Opposition poser was: If the KSEB Limited was running profits, what was the need to hike power tariffs and unnecessarily burden the people.
Power minister K Krishnan Kutty, however, disputed the profit figures. He said there was a working profit of ₹1400 crore only in 2021-22. As for the previous years, he said KSEB Limited had in fact run up losses.
Opposition Leader V D Satheesan now had a tricky question for the ruling benches. "You will have to tell us who is right. Either you should disown the Deshabhimani report or admit that the Minister was wrong," Satheesan said. Neither the minister nor anyone in the ruling side responded. Excise minister Govindan Master, who had recently said in the Assembly that his party did not believe in mainstream vernaculars, was seen smiling.
Both Satheesan and the Congress MLA Anwar Sadath, who moved the adjournment motion, argued that the government, instead of hiking tariffs, should have actually reduced tariffs by at least 40 paise per unit. "The Electricity Act says that the power utility's gains should be passed on to the consumers," Satheesan said.
The UDF also used the occasion to restate the grave charges of misconduct levelled by the outgoing KSEB chairman B Ashok. Ashok had come down hard on certain practices prevalent in the utility. He said that funds were being swindled from consumers using information leaked from the KSEB software. He said that tender details were leaked to contractors. He also said that 90 people were given WhatsApp recruitment without the knowledge of the full Board or the management.
Satheesan said that Ashok was shunted out for asking these uncomfortable questions. He said the minister had no choice but to remain a mute witness to the action taken against Ashok. The minister did not respond.