In February this year, a power consumer Mehboob Ali died of a heart attack in Hussainganj when he was asked to shell out R43,000 as compounding charges just because his power load was more than the sanctioned load.
The incident speaks volumes about the harassment which consumers of the Lucknow Electricity Supply Authority (LESA) face when it comes to billing. The billing woes are the handiwork of private agencies in connivance with LESA officials, allege consumers.
Private agencies are also playing dirty in changing Chinese meters.
They are extorting money from consumers by scaring them that they would be framed in case the meter is slow.
LESA and consumer bodies receive more than 200 complaints per month related to harassment by powermen.
A number of cases have been reported from all parts of the city in which on the pretext of meter running slow, LESA has not only charged consumers but also penalised them by imposing heavy compounding charges.
Family members of Mehboob Ali cannot forget the day when some people from LESA entered their house and exerted so much pressure on Ali that he died.
In February, LESA slapped compounding charges of R43,000 for drawing load of 3 KW instead of sanctioned load of 1 KW in Hussainganj substation area, despite the fact that the Ali household was drawing only 292 units per month of electricity.
According to family members of Ali, he died of shock after seeing the whopping amount of compounding charges.
Chairman, Uttar Pradesh Rajya Vidyut Up bhokta Parishad Avadhesh Kumar Varma said, “LESA seems to be draconian in dealing with its consumers. The death of Mehboob Ali cannot be taken lightly. Instead of punishing the engineers guilty of harassing consumers, they were let off.”
The same game is still going on in Hussainganj area, despite the orders of the UPERC that the compounding would only be done on the sanctioned load.
Why doesn’t LESA punish its engineers allowing power theft in their areas? Why is LESA only after the consumers who are drawing power legally but may be drawing more than the sanctioned load? Why is LESA not acting against the people who draw power through katia?
These are the pertinent questions which the chairman of Uttar Pradesh Rajya Vidyut Upbhokta Parishad has raised in his letter to chief of Mdhyanchal discom.
Ashok Kumar Pandey, a resident of Gomti Nagar said, “My Chinese meter was changed by LESA but when they tested the meter they said that the previous meter was running slow so I would have to pay compounding charges of R22,000, which came as a shock to me. My consumption has regularly between 200 to 250 units and I have been paying bill religiously. They sealed the meter and I never bothered to look back at it. Despite my honesty, they slammed compounding charges which I had to pay.”
KK Singh, a resident of Thakurganj, said that those changing meters did not carry identity cards and they threatened to frame him in a slow meter case if he did not cough up R1,000.
Another consumer in Lalkuan area said, “I suffered due to the nexus between LESA officials and staff of private hand-held billing agencies. This dangerous nexus is emerging as a big source of corruption and harassment of consumers in LESA. The private agency employees, in innumerable cases, feed incorrect meter readings (usually more units than consumed) in their hand machines. Later, when the consumers run from pillar to the post to get their bill rectified, they are harassed and extorted by LESA engineers.”
The men from private firms act as ‘collectors’ for the engineers.
The racket is flourishing in all LESA divisions, allege consumers.
Harassed consumers have made written complaints to the LESA officers, but no action has been taken as yet .
For example, in one case the private agency staff showed the meter in RDF, though the meter was running well.
Deepesh Pant of Rajajipuram said that he received the bill of 5120 units while actually his meter recorded only 4,830.
He was made to pay some money to rectify the bill.
Savitri Devi of Lal Kuan was given a bill of 1200 units against the actual consumption of 1002 units as recorded by the meter.
In many places, the anomalies occur because meter readers do not go to field but prepare bills sitting inside their rooms.
“The problem would be solved if the residents are given the power of filling their latest readings on UPPCL site and paying online. The meter reader can always cross-check whether or not the reading is right,” said VK Joshi of Havelock road.