‘Vasooli Bhabhi’: Meet Madhya Pradesh’s women recovery agents for outstanding power bills
With a smile on her face and folded hands, saree clad Malti Pradhan, 37, of Madhya Pradesh’s Palasi village softly requests people to pay their pending electricity bills. Pradhan is among 500 newly appointed women recovery agent of the state-owned power distribution company, MP Madhya Kshetra Vidyut Vitran, who have replaced men across 16 districts for the job.
Like men, they also get five to ten percent commission of the money recovered, depending on the amount recovered, from defaulters and have been trained to use an online application to track power bills and default in payment.
On average, a woman recovery agent earns, between Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 per month, which these women say is enough for rural parts of Madhya Pradesh. There are additional incentives for preventing power theft in the villages, said Manoj Diwedi, public relation officer of the company.
Pradhan says because of their work they have earned sobriquets such as ‘Vasooli Bhabhi’, ‘440-volt current’. Many villagers think that the work is not suitable for them.
“Earning from my husband’s grocery shop decreased due to Covid-19 lockdown. In June, I learnt about the new job opportunity for women in the power district company and I immediately joined it without even thinking how will I be able to do it,” Pradhan, who has a bachelors degree in education, said.
She recalled that in the first month people used to ridicule her, show distrust and some elderly advised her that the work was not suitable for her. Overcoming all odds, she made some people pay bills after a month and earned Rs 500. “Now, people have started respecting me and also offer me a chair to sit,” she said.
Rashmi Meena, 30, of Sonasavri village in Itarsi district, has to prevent power theft in addition to recovering money. “I couldn’t be harsh with villagers and lodge complaints on noticing power theft because of their poor financial condition,” she said.
Every morning she runs into agriculture fields outside the village and urge villagers with folded hands not to steal power. “I tell them that they may have to go to jail for power theft and their children will not get government schemes benefits,” she said, adding that many villagers have now stopped power theft.
Some of the women, like Nisha Vishwakarma, 42, of Bairasiya in Bhopal district, have got the support of their husbands in doing the job which is primarily male-dominated.
“When people mocked my wife’s job by saying that now she would climb the electric pole too as a lineman, I just tell them that no work is gender-specific and it’s a matter of pride for me that women have been handed over a job which men failed to perform,” said her husband Balmukund Vishwakarma.
Madhya Pradesh’s energy minister Pradyuman Singh said, “With their soft approach and hard work, these women are giving a befitting reply to scorn directed to them by men. The scheme has borne good result and these women have received Rs 10 lakh so far.”
Diwedi said the agents get up to 15 percent of the commission depending on the pending amount and 10 percent on reporting power theft. More money recovered, higher is the commission. They also get commission on initiating new power connections, he added.
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