Gorkhaland may be a distant dream for Gorkhaland Janamukti Morcha, but it already seems to have arranged free power for the people.
Following a Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) diktat, consumers living in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, parts of Siliguri and other areas have stopped paying for their electricity consumption since April 2008, running up unpaid bills worth more than Rs 43 crore.
Hindustan Times has obtained data from West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company (WBSEDCL) that reveal about 1.05 lakh consumers of the hills and some plane regions as well enjoying virtually free electricity supply for the past 21 months.
AREA Number of Consumers
Teesta Bazar 1,619
Yet, not a single consumer has been penalized or had his connection snapped.
Usually WBSEDCL consumers who leave their bills unpaid for three months in a row, are penalized by snapping their connection. In the proposed Gorkhaland area cash counters of WBSEDCL have been closed for months. Predictably, maintenance operations are allowed.
According to latest figures, the average outstanding bill per consumer has reached Rs 4,124.
Bills are being dispatched regularly, but consumers keep ignoring them. “This is an agitation and a non-cooperation movement. So it will continue,” said GJM general secretary Roshan Giri on Thursday.
“What do you want me to say in this situation?” said a rather helpless power minister Mrinal Banerjee. “One option is to snap connection, but it can lead to untoward situation,” he admitted.
WBSEDCL records say the bill boycott was relaxed only for a couple of days in April 2008, but since then it has been clean record of non-payment.
The area where power is being delivered are Darjeeling, Bijonbari, Sukhiapokhri, Lodhama, Takdah, Kurseong, Sonada, Mirik, Kalimpong, Teesta Bazar, Mongpoo, and Naxalbari.
The proposed Gorkhaland covers approximately 6,450 square kms and according to the 2001 census the population is 30 lakh, mostly Gorkhas.
However, some bulk consumers are paying their bills in Siliguri.
But electricity bill is not the only utility which is coming free, thanks to the GJM, at the moment. Residents in the proposed Gorkhaland are not paying telephone bills or any other state taxes that include vehicle tax. land tax, sale tax and even income tax.
Over the past two years the GJM writ virtually runs the regions mentioned above. All signboards, billboards carry the name ‘Gorkhaland.’
Cars ply with ‘GL’, signifying Gorkhaland, on numberplates.
GJM was set up on 7 October 2007 to step up agitation for realizing Gorkhaland.