64.52 lakh consumers in Maharashtra have not paid power bills since April: MSEDCL
According to a circular issued by the state discom in November, non-payment of dues this year has amounted to ₹7,154 crore (till October).Updated: Nov 21, 2020, 10:37 IST
Around 64.52 lakh consumers in the state have not paid a single rupee towards their power bills since April 1, recent data shared by the Maharashtra Electricity Distribution Company’s Limited (MSEDCL) showed. The state discom supplies power to over 2 crore consumers in the state.
According to a circular issued by the state discom in November, non-payment of dues this year has amounted to ₹7,154 crore (till October). Of this, high-end user dues amount to ₹946 crore while low-end user dues across categories amount to ₹5,089 crore. It has further to recover close to ₹700 crore for power supplied for street lights and other utilities. As per data shared by MSEDCL, the total arrears as of October-end is ₹59,149 crore.
According to the circular, it has assigned roles to various employees with a target to recover dues by the year-end. A senior official from MSEDCL said, “The employees have been asked to get in touch with consumers and public representatives to give them information about the various schemes and achieve their targets by year-end.”
In August, the state had said that it was planning to waive excess bills by bearing the surplus amount for April, May and June. State energy minister Nitin Raut in October had also said that consumers will get good news during Diwali. However, on Tuesday, Raut announced that the state will not be able to provide any relief to consumers owing to its poor financial status and lack of aid from the Central government. The announcement came as a shock to thousands of consumers who had reported inflated bills after the lockdown period.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slammed the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, alleging that it had betrayed the people who were reeling under pandemic-induced problems.
Leader of Opposition and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said that Raut was misleading people by giving wrong statistics related to the losses to electricity companies. “The MVA government is cheating the people of Maharashtra. The announcement was done by some of the ministers after a cabinet meeting. Now they have been saying that it was not possible because of the financial burden. To cover up their failure, the ministers have now been pointing fingers at the Central government. The state government should not have announced the bill waiver in the first place when it was not possible to give one due to the financial constraints. The Centre was ready to give loans to the electricity companies, why did not the state government opt for it?” he said.
Vishwas Pathak, BJP spokesperson, said, “So many people lost their jobs during the pandemic. The inflated bills just added to their woes. The government was expected to provide relief to the common man, but they could not. People have seen the insensitive face of this government again.”
On Wednesday, Raut took to Twitter to say that the BJP could not recover pending dues even in “normal times”, and the losses mounted to ₹50,000 crore during its reign. “MSEDCL faced its biggest loss when BJP was in power. The losses just mounted during the Covid-19 period,” he said.
Owing to the pandemic, the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) had suspended meter reading and asked discoms to charge consumers based on an average. However, since lakhs of consumers complained of hefty bills, the state energy department had proposed providing relief to consumers.
As of Wednesday, a total of 37,048 complaints related to inflated bills have been received, of which 31,151 are of MSEDCL, 3,016 of BEST, 2158 of Tata Power and 723 of Adani Electricity. The power suppliers together have to recover ₹5,676 crore from consumers.
The state had also sought a grant of ₹10,000 crore from the Centre to tide over the financial stress.