Shock has come alive over inflated power bills posted to the dead.
Contrary to the state policy of free electricity to Dalit homes, many people of the backward community at Rauke Kalan in this district have been asked to pay inflated price for energy.
Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has issued electricity bills for more than Rs. 50,000 each to some people who died years ago. People alive gathered in agitation on Friday at the village and decided to protest on Saturday outside the power grid office at Badhni Kalan town.
The Congress leaders of this area seized the opportunity to politicise the problem. Former Congress legislator Ajit Singh Shant from Nihal Singh Wala constituency reached Rauke Kalan to assure the protesters of his party's support to their cause. Some amount of electricity to the Dalits is supposed to be free of cost.
"Villager Ramjeet Singh died about five years ago, but the electricity department has sent a bill for Rs. 45,684 to his home," said Jaswant Singh, a Congress leader of Rauke Kalan. "Villager Balwinder Singh also died long but a bill for Rs. 51,508 was sent to his house. Ten consumers have been asked to pay more than Rs. 15,000 each and 16 have to submit more than for Rs. 10,000 each."
Subedar Karam Singh (Rs 42, 864), Partap Singh (Rs 36,921), Ranjit Singh (Rs 38,201), and Gurdev Singh, manager of Dalit Dharamshala (Rs 47,298), also received inflated bills.
"The PSPCL officials at Badhni Kalan declined to accept our argument about inflated charges," said Swaran Singh, member of the gram panchayat of Rauke Kalan. "We have no option but to begin an agitation against the electricity department, which we'll do on Saturday. We plan a protest outside the office of the PSPCL executive engineer at Moga."
"In the last assembly elections, the now-ruling alliance of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had agreed to provide the Dalit families with free-of-cost electricity on winning," said former Congress legislator Ajit Singh Shant. "The poor have been betrayed. When the villagers of Rauke Kalan start their agitation, I will join them."
Orders were out to fit the electricity meters in iron boxes outside the consumers' homes, said Bhupinder Singh, subdivisional officer of the PSPCL at Badhni Kalan. "We are in a campaign to implement this order," he added. "The people who cook food on heaters will, of course, consume more than 200 units of electricity a month, and they are allowed only 200 free units a month. The bills match the meter reading."