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In Bengal, poor farmers pay wrong power bills in the hope of electricity

The meters were installed eight years ago.

kolkata Updated: Oct 08, 2017 07:06 IST
Sreyasi Pal
Sreyasi Pal
Hindustan Times, Berhampore
West Bengal,Electricity bill,Murshidabad
A section of the villagers pose with the electricity bills. Some of them have even paid the bills in the hope that the gesture will accelerate the connection.(HT Photo)

Eight years ago, Hyder Ali thought his life would be finally lighting up. The West Bengal government had just installed an electricity meter in their house in rural Murshidabad and he thought a power connection would be on its way soon.

That day never came. But this month, after waiting for almost a decade, Ali received a bill for Rs 1,520 without having used a single unit of electricity. The tragedy: Though he knew the bill was wrong, he paid the amount in the hope that it would get him an electricity connection.

“We have already paid the bill amount – without using a single unit of power – in the hope that the condition of our house and the area will change now,” said Ali, a 45-year-old farmer.

The meters are now covered with dirt and, in some houses, cobwebs. (HT Photo)

Ali is among 30-odd households in the impoverished village of Majhira, about 200 kilometres from state capital Kolkata, who have got electricity bills without a power connection. Five of them say they have already paid the amount.

“An electricity meter was installed at our house about eight years ago. Thereafter, some poles were installed, but we never got connection. Seven days ago, the electricity office sent me a bill of Rs 2,185. But none has ever visited my house to connect the meter with electric pole,” said Saira Bibi, a resident of the village.

The meters are now covered with dirt and, in some houses, cobwebs.

Almost all village residents are farmers and say the biggest menace is poisonous snakes, and it becomes a problem to locate the reptiles in the dark in the absence of electricity. Students, too, suffer after sunset.

“It’s a matter of great shame. If anything like this has happened, I shall immediately take action,” power minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay told HT on Saturday.

Locals said the bills mentioned that villagers would be fined if they delayed payments. All bills were more than Rs 1,000 – an exorbitant sum for a village where most households operate just a tubelight and fan, and an average bill hovers around Rs 200.

Memsona Bibi, another villager, said, “An electric bill of Rs 2,430 was delivered to my house. Anyone can come to my house and see that there is no electricity connection. Still I agreed to pay the money in three phases but electricity department officials refused to take the amount.”

The villagers say they have repeatedly complained to the local electricity office but to no avail. Mubarak Hossain, the in-charge of the local office of the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company, refused to comment.

First Published: Oct 08, 2017 07:06 IST