1st training seminar under third phase of the CUTS-FES Joint Programme on “Involvement of Consumers in Power Sector Reforms in Rajasthan”

  • This was the first event in a series of six training seminars to be jointly organised by CUTS and FES in different parts of Rajasthan this year. The main theme of this daylong seminar was to generate awareness among the representatives of grassroot consumer groups and ‘Vidhyut Sudhar Samiti’ members about the Consumer Charter that has been released by the Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission. The consumer charter is a document that describes the rights of the consumers, which are expected to be honoured by the distribution companies.
  • The programme was well attended by participants from the Chittorgarh district, mainly comprising representatives of grassroot consumer organisations/groups and members of Vidhyut Sudhar Samitis. About 30 percent of the participants were women. Two experts also attended the programme to impart training to the participants, one on consumer advocacy and the other on power sector reforms.
  • The local M.L.A. Smt. Madhu Dhadich was expected to attend the programme. But she could not as she had to suddenly move out of Chittorgarh the same day. The programme started with the representatives of CUTS sharing the aim, objectives and process of this CUTS-FES joint programme. The success of the programme so far was also briefly narrated to the participants. It was explained that this time CUTS and FES had decided to generate awareness among the consumers on the Consumer Charter and impart necessary training. This effort would help equip them monitor implementation of the Charter, which is an important tool for improving the quality of services of the electricity supply in rural and semi-urban areas.
  • This was followed by an hour-long session to update the participants on the recent developments in the power sector in Rajasthan. This was done with a view to refresh and reinforce their understanding of the subject as well as to explain the scope for interventions by consumer groups to improve the scenario in rural areas. Though better informed about the reforms, the participants still had doubts on the role of political parties and government in the process.
  • The next session was an open dialogue between the participants and Shri B. L. Maheshwari, Superintending Engineer, Chittorgarh circle, Ajmer Vidhyut Vitaran Nigam Limited. The session was highly interactive as Shri Maheshwari explained and elaborated to the participants the various mechanisms available, through which the consumers could get their grievances resolved.
  • Shri Maheshwari praised the initiative taken up by CUTS and FES and specifically mentioned that
    such efforts are very helpful in achieving better coordination and develop a feeling of trust among
    consumers at large.
  • One major information Shri Maheshwari shared was that of formally recognising the work of
    ‘Vidhyut Sudhar Samitis’ and mentioned that he would ensure increased association between the
    distribution company and the Samitis. He announced on the occasion that bill distribution in rural
    areas would be done through such registered Samitis henceforth and they would also be actively
    associated in the theft prevention campaign. This is a welcome move, as it would result in improving
    the services in the rural areas. It would also afford some monetary support to these Samitis that
    would accrue through distribution of bills.
  • On theft prevention issue, most of the members of the ‘Samitis’ were of the view that though they are
    continuously trying to educate the people concerned not to steal electricity, it requires continuous and
    sustained efforts. The issue basically involves changing the mindset of people, which is a gradual
  • The post-lunch session was devoted to the Consumer Charter. On inquiring the participants whether they were aware of the Consumer Charter, it was surprising to find that not a single person had any knowledge of the Charter. This brought to the fore the communication gap that exists which results in confusion and mistrust.
  • The Consumer Charter was explained to the participants in their own dialect. It was also explained to them as to how they can ensure implementation of the provisions in the Charter.
  • Shri Bhanvar Lal Sisodia, consumer activist, lawyer and an expert on social advocacy, then had an hour-long session with the participants and explained to them the process of social advocacy on common problems of the community with special reference to electricity-related issues. Participants greatly benefited from these inputs also because the session was an interactive one.
  • The last session was conducted by the CUTS representative to strengthen and reinforce the understanding of the participants about power sector reforms and how they could participate in the reform process. Many consumer organisation representatives raised their doubts on the process through which they could participate in the hearings of the Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission.