The Electricity Act, 2003 provides for active participation of consumers in all areas of generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. The regulatory mechanism created by this legislation has been deliberately designed to receive inputs from consumers and citizens. From the framing of regulations to the stage of licensing utilities and fixing tariff, the Act requires that the people be provided an opportunity to participate in decision making. In fact the Act even requires the Commission disseminate knowledge among consumers about the means by which they can involve themselves and make the regulatory function sensitive to the needs of the community at large.
In Meghalaya the Regulatory Commission has brought out Regulations that detail some of the concrete ways in which citizens can seek satisfaction from their service providers. Besides this the Commission has published a book containing the Act and the Regulations framed so far. Meetings with citizens have been held in Tura, Shillong and Jowai where presentations about the rights of citizens and the avenues available to them to have their grievances settled, have been made.
Given the importance of electricity in our daily lives the Commission expects that consumers and citizens will participate more actively in determining the contours of the service they expect from their service providers. Some of the institutional means for consumer engagement that already exist or have been created are listed below:-
- A Grievance Redressal Forum where the consumer can raise their issues and seek relief has been mandated.
- The Ombudsman to whom a consumer may represent his case if he is not satisfied with the decision of the Forum has been appointed.
- The Advisory Committee whose members represent the interests of different interest groups and regions has been appointed.
- Public hearings, where consumers are invited, while determining tariff for distribution and transmission of electricity have been held. Transparency in the entire exercise ensures that the consumer knows what he is being charged for and why. Participation by citizens also enables the Commission take on board concrete measures that the licensee or utility can take to improve efficiency and control cost.
- Setting up of service centres and complaint booths by the licensee (Me.S.E.B.) in Specified areas all over the state have been announced. Details of the area of jurisdiction and the concerned officer authorised to attend to complaints /grievances have been publicised.
Beyond the framework already in place, the Commission being a quasi-judicial body with powers of a civil court, functions transparently. This implies that its regulatory activities are carried out in a transparent manner and all deliberations and decisions are open to the public. To ensure that consumers and their interests are not lost sight of, the Act authorises the Commission to even appoint, if necessary, suitable individuals or institutions to effectively represent the consumers.