The West Bengal government is now considering applying ‘power’ pressure tactics on Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which is adamant on indefinite strike in the hills of Darjeeling on its demand for separate Gorkhaland state.
Under this strategy, the state government is now ready to adopt the extreme step by directing its power distribution entity, West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (WBSEDCL), to go for discontinuation of service to individual connections in Darjeeling in case of nonpayment of both accumulated and currently electricity dues.
Although the accumulated electricity dues of WBSEDCL touched an alarming range of around Rs. 102 crore in three years from 2008 to 2011, the entity could not take the extreme step of discontinuation of the services mainly because of the state government’s disinclination to allow it to take such an extreme step.
However, state government sources said that now with the state chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, having taken a nocompromise stand on the hill issue, besides the standard security measures to ensure stability of law and order situation in the hills, discontinuation of electricity services for non-payment of dues might become another pressure tactics on GJM.
As reported by HT on July 8, 2013 a rift between the state government and GJM had been going on the fate of the dues both in terms of electricity dues to WBSEDCL as well as state tax accumulated during the three years between 2008 and 2011.
While the accumulated electricity dues over these three years stand at R102 crore, the accumulated state tax dues during the same period stands at R108 crore.
Although the GJM leadership demanded a waiver of the dues, the cash-strapped state government and WBSEDCL were unwilling to do that. As per law, WBSEDCL can waive the accumulated dues only if the state government reimburses it the waived amount.
The residents of the hills stopped paying state taxes and electricity dues in 2008 under the instructions of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, when the situation there was really turbulent over the movement in demand of the separate Gorkhaland.
In 2011, after the GTA agreement was signed between the Mamata Banerjee-led new state government and GJM, they again started paying the tax and electricity dues from the current phase.
However, they did not starting paying the dues accumulated from 2008 till the agreement was signed.
“We apprehend that GJM would give similar directions to stop paying state taxes and electricity dues. In that case, the accumulated dues would increase further. So the government will have to think of ways to recover part dues. So discontinuation of power service to individual defaulters can be such an effective shape,” said a source