A populist scheme in 2005 by Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to waive off electricity bills worth nearly Rs 1,600 crore has left Haryana in the red. Fresh figures suggest defaulters have piled up arrears of another nearly Rs 3,900 crore.
The scheme which was aimed at roping in non-paying electricity consumers to become regular at paying bills in the future (after 2005) has not only flopped but has left power corporations staring at arrears of nearly Rs 3,900 crore, audit reports have revealed.
Hooda's largesse to the power bill defaulters was made in March 2005 just days after he became chief minister for the first time. Though the government had promised to waive off arrears of Rs 1,600 crore in the end, arrears of only around Rs 950 crore were waived as the rest of the defaulters did not even bother to join the populist scheme.
Under the scheme, defaulters were asked to pay up the next 10 bills (spread over 20 months) regularly to get their arrears of past bills of over a decade waived off.
Sources in Haryana's power corporations, the Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (UHBVN) and Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN) say the scheme not only failed to achieve the desired results but led to a situation in which thousands more power consumers stopped paying bills in various districts of the state.
"The new defaulters have stopped paying the bills in anticipation of another scheme by some other government that comes to power, waiving off the arrears later. The new arrears are nearly Rs 3,900 crore " a senior power corporation official told IANS.
Sources say hundreds of consumers particularly in rural areas and smaller towns refuse to pay electricity bills leading to the arrears.
The worst defaulters are the Jat-dominated districts of Jind, Bhiwani, Hisar and Rohtak. Hooda himself comes from the Jat community.
Jind district alone accounts for fresh arrears of nearly Rs 785 crore followed by Bhiwani (Rs 526 crore), Hisar (Rs 407 crore) and Rohtak (Rs 406 crore). Rohtak is the home district of the chief minister.
"It is true that the arrears of electricity bills have run into Rs 3,900 crore. There are some districts where bills are not being paid. We are filing cases against defaulters in revenue courts. The power corporations are autonomous. We have also set up police stations to deal with power theft " Haryana's Power Minister Ajay Singh Yadav said.
While the UHBVN has accumulated arrears worth nearly Rs 2,100 crore, the DHBVN has arrears of over Rs 1,800 crore.
Sources say the arrears of domestic consumers alone run into nearly Rs 2,500 crore.
Though the corporations have become strict and disconnected the power supply of defaulters and those stealing power in recent years, the arrears have kept going up.