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Saturday, Dec 14, 2019

Will UP power staff follow minister, take metered route?

lucknow Updated: Nov 18, 2019 23:24 IST

After energy minister Shrikant Sharma got a prepaid meter installed at his official residence here on Friday, it remains to be seen whether power engineers and employees in the state will follow him by getting electricity meters, prepaid or postpaid, installed at their homes.

UP’s one lakh (one million) employees and pensioners were used to enjoying the unmetered power supply with no limit to consumption and paying only nominal fixed monthly charges, which were often less than what below poverty line (BPL) consumers were being charged.

By getting the prepaid meter at his residence, Sharma launched the campaign that seeks installation of such meters at all government premises that together have around Rs 13,000 crore (Rs 130 billion) power dues pending against them.

Sources, however, said the state’s powermen were in no mood to allow UP Power Corporation Ltd (UPPCL) to install any meter, prepaid or postpaid, at their official or private houses.

Though unmetered electricity to any category of consumers runs counter to the provisions of the Electricity Act 2003, the state’s power men have been resisting any bid to bring them under the category of metered consumers. All attempts by the government and the regulator in this regard have failed.

UP Electricity Regulatory Commission (UPERC), in its tariff order on September, 3, had clearly directed the UPPCL to start installing meters at power employees and pensioners’ premises with immediate effect to comply with the law that does not permit unmetered supply of electricity to consumers of any category.

“The commission directs the licencee (UPPCL) to install electronic meters at the residences of the consumers under LMV-10 category (power staff and pensioners) with an immediate effect,” the commission said in its order.

The commission also directed the UPPCL to submit a progress report to it every month and warned of taking penal action against the corporation in case of non-compliance of its fresh directives in this regard.

Sources said the UPPCL had not been able to install even a single meter since then and had not submitted any compliance report to the commission.

“UPERC has not received any compliance report from the UPPCL so far and is mulling sending a reminder to it,” said sources.

According to the tariff order, the number of unmetered consumers in the state at the end of 2018-19 was 3,114,155. The corporation was told of the necessity of bringing this number down to 9 lakh (900,000) at the end of the current financial year.

The power employees and pensioners’ share in the total number of unmetered consumers in the state is around a lakh (a million). UP is said to be the country’s only state to allow unmetered and unlimited electricity to its power staff despite the Electricity Act 2003 clearly prohibiting giving an electricity connection to any consumer without a working energy meter.

The commission’s view is that employees must allow meters to be installed on their premises for the purpose of accounting of energy that they consume and after which they may claim concessional tariff, if so provided under the terms and conditions of their services.

The UPPCL, according to sources, finds itself helpless in implementing the regulator’s directions in view of the stiff opposition from the power employees’ unions to the very idea of metered supply. The UPPCL management had, in writing told the regulator a few months ago that the problem was being faced in maintaining industrial relations with the employees’ unions and dealing with unrest among employees.

On Friday, the energy minister said that the objective behind installing prepaid meters in government offices and buildings was to improve the financial health of UPPCL so that affordable and uninterrupted power could be made available to consumers.

“The same logic applies here because the facility of unmetered supply encourages power men to make wastage of electricity in various ways and a check on this practice will result into a cheaper power for consumers,” sources pointed out, adding, “But for UPPCL to install meters at its employees’ premises is even more difficult now when the management is defensive and employees on the offensive over the provident fund scam.

Sources said this could be possible only on court’s directions after someone filed a public interest litigation like an aware citizen did in Uttarakhand after which the Nainital high court last week pulled up the Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd (UPCL) for giving the facility of unlimited power consumption to its staff against nominal charges.

The litigant there had highlighted the unchecked use by power employees, including a general manager who had used 92,000 units of electricity worth over Rs 4 lakh in 25 months but had to pay just Rs 425 per month due to the facility of unlimited use at heavily discounted rate. After the HC’s rap, UPCL on November 14 informed the court during the hearing of the PIL, about its plan to put a cap on the quantity of electricity provided to its employees and pensioners.