Electricity bill worth Rs 50,000! Post-lockdown power bills shock consumers in Madhya Pradesh
A state BJP office-bearer in Bhopal who usually used to receive a bill of about Rs 15,000 per month against his domestic connection got a bill of more than Rs 50,000 in June.Updated: Jun 24, 2020 18:02 IST
Post-lockdown power bills have come as a shock to consumers in Madhya Pradesh prompting the state government to announce setting up of camps in every assembly constituency to redress the grievances of consumers. The government has also announced relief to those enjoying subsidised power under its scheme, as per energy department officials and complaints from people.
According to officials, the power bills have affected every section of society. A state BJP office-bearer in Bhopal who usually used to receive a bill of about Rs 15,000 per month against his domestic connection got a bill of more than Rs 50,000 in June.
Surendra Singh, a retired government official in Gwalior, used to receive bills of about Rs 2,000-2,500 during winters and Rs 3,500-4,500 during summers. He was jolted with a bill that amounted to Rs 19,000 this month. In Sagar, a shopkeeper - whose shop was closed for nearly two months amid the Covid-19 lockdown - got a bill of more than Rs 4,800.
Anshul Bhargava, the shopkeeper in Sagar said, “I have got a bill of Rs 4,818. I regularly checked for bills online too but didn’t get any. Otherwise, my shop was closed for two months. Then how is this bill justified?”
The BJP office-bearer who didn’t want to be named said, “I understand that June’s bill covered two months but this amount is mind-boggling. How come this comes to Rs 50,000? Since it’s BJP which is in power, I can’t lodge any protest in public on the issue.”
In districts like Jabalpur, Seoni, Ashok Nagar, Rajgarh, Ratlam, Gwalior, among others, people have protested on the matter in the past week or so.
As per government officials, during the lockdown period, the consumers received electricity bills, amounting to the usual figure, in April and May. The bills were based on the power consumption in March. The officials added that as more people were indoors during the lockdown in April and May, people ended up consuming more electricity and the power units were charged as per the higher slab of the tariff in June.
This calculation of the power distribution companies also affected those who enjoyed subsidised power under various government schemes. This was due to the change in the government in March and changes in the scheme too.
A government official said, “The previous BJP government headed by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had announced Sambal scheme for subsidised power to unorganised sector labourers, vendors and farmers with a smallholding of land at Rs 200 per month subject to the consumption of power up to 1 kW, ahead of 2018 assembly elections. More than 80 lakh consumers got themselves registered.”
He said, “When the Congress formed its government in December 2018, it replaced Sambal with Indira Jyoti Yojna under which a power consumer was supposed to pay Rs 100 for 100 units of electricity if he didn’t consume more than 100 units of power in a month. If a consumer’s meter reading didn’t show more than 150 units of power in a month, he was supposed to pay Rs 100 for the first 100 units and normal rates for the next 50 units. It was around Rs 400 per month. But if a consumer consumed more than 150 units of power in a month, all units were charged as per the higher slab of the tariff. It was about Rs 6.30 per unit from 151 to 300 units and Rs 6.50 per unit for units above 300.”
The official said that since the present government had dumped Indira Jyoti Yojna and replaced it with the Sambal scheme, the software was to be updated for the Sambal scheme beneficiaries by mid-June but it couldn’t be done. Hence, the power units of these beneficiaries too were charged as per normal rates. Hence, those who used to get the bill of about Rs 400 per month have now got the bill amounting to Rs 1,000-2,000.
On Monday, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced a relief to Sambal scheme beneficiaries provided they had bills of up to Rs 400 in April.
“The decision about the remaining bills will be subject to scrutiny”, said the CM while interacting with consumers from different regions.
Given the complaints regarding the power bills from across the state, the cabinet decided on Tuesday to hold camps in every assembly constituency to rectify the bills against complaints as told by home minister Narottam Mishra.
State Congress president’s media coordinator Narendra Saluja said, “Hefty electricity bills have given a shock to all sections of society. By dumping Indira Jyoti Yojna, the government has fleeced people belonging to the weaker section. The CM announced relief only because of the ensuing bypolls to 24 assembly constituencies. But it is misleading as it is full of ifs and buts and in effect, no one is going to get benefit from the same.”
Principal secretary, state energy department Sanjay Dubey said, “We are looking into complaints of power bills. Fact remains that during the lockdown the power consumption grew in homes. However, if anyone comes with a complaint that he has been charged extra, I will take immediate action on this.”
(With inputs from Anupam Pateriya in Sagar)