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Delhi’s ‘power’ play: Pay nothing for Rs 800 bill

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The Delhi government will extend its 100% power subsidy scheme to those domestic consumers who manage to keep their power bills to at most Rs 800, senior government officials working on the plan said on Monday.

The government will also offer a flat Rs 800 discount to those who consume a maximum of 400 units of power, the officials added.

Soon after the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC), a quasi-judicial independent body, announced new tariffs effective from August 1, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had offered a power subsidy scheme for domestic consumers who consume a maximum of 200 units of power every month, with the additional caveat of a maximum 5kW sanctioned load. Kejriwal further said that households consuming anything between 201 and 400 units per month will have to pay their electricity bill but approximately 50% of the full bill amount will be subsidised by the government.

The new plan prepared by the power department, however, expands this.

Officials, while providing details of the revised scheme, said monthly electricity bills will be effectively nil for even those households which consume up to 208 units as their bill would come to about Rs 800 – the maximum a consumer can avail of the subsidy.

The newly introduced cap has rather turned in favour of mostly those consumers who have a consumption pattern ranging from 201-208 units a month with a sanctioned load between 1-2 kW. Electricity for such consumers too will be free of cost.

“It is a misconception that only those consuming up to 200 units will get a full waiver on their electricity bills. Under the new scheme, even those households who have a consumption of say, 204 units with a low sanctioned load, will have to pay nothing. For the rest who consume up to 400 units, those households will get a subsidy of flat Rs 800 on their bills,” said a senior official in the power department on condition of anonymity.

Besides, the scheme will also benefit consumers whose properties are not occupied. Also, the subsidy has no cap on the sanctioned load of a household, as against the cap of 5kW that was announced earlier.

“There are many farmhouses and bungalows that have relatively higher sanctioned load but have no energy consumption as the owners stay out. Or for that matter, any family that has gone for a holiday and has not consumed any electricity for a month, will have to pay either nothing or a negligible amount. This is because the government, for the first time, will be paying for the fixed charges and surcharges in electricity bills up to certain units,” another official said.

Calculations done by the power department show if a household has a sanctioned load of 5kW or 7kW will also have to pay nothing if there is no energy consumption. Those consuming say 208 units with 1 kW will pay Rs 0 even as their actual bill would amount to Rs 798.71.

In 2018-19, there were around 2.6 million consumers using up to 200 units electricity, while those consuming more than 200 and up to 400 units numbered around 1.4 lakh. Delhi has about 4.9 million domestic electricity consumers as of now.

The total expenditure to be incurred for the revised subsidy is still unknown even as officials are estimating that the cost may increase by at least Rs 300 crore. This is the second time that the Delhi government has tweaked it power subsidy scheme which was first launched as a flat 50% subsidy for those consuming up to 400 units in the year 2015.

Last year, in March, the government had changed the scheme after the DERC had increased fixed charges across all slabs. As per the previous subsidy scheme, which was applicable between March, 2018 and July 31 this year, those who consumed between 0-200 units were charged Rs 1 per unit instead of Rs 3, and those using 201-400 units were paying Rs 2.5 instead of 4.5.

In 2015-16, the first year of the scheme, the government had allocated Rs 1,690 crore for the water and power subsidy scheme collectively. Out of this, the power subsidy bill was around Rs 1,200 crore.

The following year saw the power subsidy outlay rise to Rs 1,577 crore; which further rose to Rs 1,676 crore in 2017-18. In 2018-19, Rs 1,699 crore was set aside for the scheme and in the budget for 2019-20, an allocation of Rs 1,720 was made which was slated to be revised to Rs 1,850 crore until the new scheme was announced.

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Brazil sends Army to fight Amazon fires; Donald Trump tweets support

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Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said he’s sending troops to battle fires roaring through vast expanses of the Amazon as President Donald Trump offered U.S. support to combat the disaster.

Under growing domestic and international pressure, Bolsonaro on Friday promised “zero tolerance” for environmental crimes and pledged “strong action” to control fires — many of them set by loggers emboldened by his government’s disdain for environmental oversight.

“Forest fires exist everywhere in the world and that can’t be used as pretext for possible international sanctions,” he said in a rare televised speech, adding the flames have been spreading faster this year because of high temperatures, an extremely dry season, and strong winds.

Trump tweeted on Friday evening that that he had spoken with Bolsonaro about the fires and trade between the two countries. His tweet appeared hours after French President Emmanuel Macron — who’s about to host the Group of Seven summit — accused Bolsonaro of lying about his country’s commitments to fight climate change and threatened to block the European Union’s trade deal with the Mercosur countries of South America.

“Our future Trade prospects are very exciting and our relationship is strong, perhaps stronger than ever before,” Trump said in the tweet. “I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!”

Macron vowed to make the burning of the Amazon jungle a priority at the summit, but the reactions of not only Trump, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel, suggested that the leaders about to gather in the French seaside resort of Biarritz were not in harmony on the crisis.

Merkel publicly disagreed with Macron. Her spokesman told Bloomberg News that she didn’t think upending the trade deal would achieve Macron’s aim of slowing deforestation in Brazil. Merkel’s spokesman, however, did back Macron’s decision to involve the international community, siding with him against Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro faces outrage abroad and at home, with protesters marching against him in Brazil’s main cities.

After a week in which the public outcry only grew louder — and as images of the flames and giant clouds of smoke continued to appear on screens around the world — he decided to deploy the Brazilian army to the Amazon. The president’s decree ordered the armed forces to carry out “preventive and repressive actions against environmental crimes” and to combat fires in the region, including indigenous territories.

“I had today an excellent conversation with President @realDonaldTrump,” Bolsonaro tweeted on Friday night. “Relations between Brazil and the U.S. are better than ever. We have a mutual desire to launch a big trade negotiation soon, aimed at promoting our peoples’ prosperity.”

Earlier Friday, the French president’s office said that it had become clear that Bolsonaro wasn’t serious about his pledges to address climate change when he spoke to world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka earlier this year.

“The president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him in Osaka,” the statement said. “Under these conditions, France is opposed to the Mercosur deal.”

The French president’s remarks provoked an angry response from Bolsonaro, who accused him of acting like a colonialist. Issues relating to Brazil should not be discussed without the country at the table, Bolsonaro added.

“The news is really worrisome, but we need to lower the temperature, there are fires in Brazil every year,” Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias told reporters in Brasilia. “There were fires in Portugal, in Siberia, there were fires all over the world and Brazil wasn’t questioning them.”

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Photos: Robot waiters serving food at Bengaluru’s first Robot Restaurant

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Service robots line up in a corridor on the opening day of the “Robot” restaurant. These robots were earlier introduced in Chennai and Coimbatore. (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)
A menu and the order tablet are seen on the table of the “Robot” restaurant. Every table has a digital tablet, and one has to jut pick and choose, order and await their turn. Once the food was ready, the kitchen assigns a robot. (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)
A service robot delivers food to customers. On a digitally marked out path the robot heads out with the food neatly arranged on a tray. At the assigned table, she turns to greet and guide the customer to pick up the dish. (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)
Customers take pictures with a service robot. The robots are interactive and are programmed to sing birthday wishes and wishes for special occasions. So, for the Saturday launch, every robot wore a scarf and a name. The names are both dynamic and customizable. (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)
The robots are programmed to work efficiently and the staff has also undergone training from the manufacturers to attend to any issues that may arise over the course of operations. While the restaurant holds a unique appeal with its robot servers, it also lends a glimpse into one possible future for hospitality businesses and the mechanization of workforces.  (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)

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First moon image captured by Chandrayaan-2 released by ISRO

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Chandrayaan-2 on Thursday beamed the first image captured by the Vikram Lander after it entered the lunar orbit earlier this week. The image was taken at a height of about 2650 km from lumar surface.

Mare Orientale basin and Apollo craters are identified in the picture.

The crucial process of taking up soft landing of the lander ‘Vikram’ onboard the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft will be taken up in the early hours of September 7, ISRO Chairman K Sivan said today.

Chandrayaan-2, launched on July 22 by India’s most powerful rocket GSLV MkIII-M1, had entered the Lunar Transfer Trajectory on August 14, leaving the Earth orbit.

It comprises an Orbiter, Lander (Vikram), named after the father of Indian space research programme Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, and Rover (Pragyan).

The rover is set to make the soft landing on the Moon on September 7 and if successful the mission would make India the fourth country after Russia, the US and China to achieve the feat.

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