Non-payment of bills: Villagers in soup as power supply to waterworks cut in Muktsar
The bills run into lakhs — for instance, Rs 10 lakh is due from Deon Khera village, and Rs 14 lakh from Mahuana — and have been pending for years.punjab Updated: Mar 05, 2018 10:19 IST
The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has disconnected electricity supply to waterworks that served over a dozen villages in the district, over non-payment of bills. This has forced residents to bring water from faraway places; and led to a protest here by some of them on Thursday.
The bills run into lakhs — for instance, Rs 10 lakh is due from Deon Khera village, and Rs 14 lakh from Mahuana — and have been pending for years in cases. Panchayats in some villages collect Rs 100 per person from residents to pay the bills, but few actually do. Gurjinder Singh, sarpanch of Tappa Khera, said, “What could a sarpanch alone do when residents don’t pay their contribution in time?”
Some of the villages fall in Lambi assembly segment represented by Shiromani Akali Dal patron and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, and the disconnection also underlines the changed political equation since Congress is now in power, say locals. “In the SAD-BJP regime, officials didn’t dare to cut the power supply,” said a villager who did not want to be named.
When contacted, Suresh Kumar, executive engineer of the PSPCL in Badal division, said, “There are 45 villages in this division. Due to non-payment of bills for a long time, the department had no choice but to disconnect the supply meant for the waterworks.” The villages affected in the division are nearly 15, said officials, though exact figure was not available as one waterworks serves multiple villages in some parts.
Irked over having to bring water from distant places, Jaspal Kaur of Kandu Khera village said, “With the summer almost here, more water will be needed for both human and cattle consumption.” Gurpal Singh of Deon Khera said, “The charge of waterworks should be given to the water supply and sanitation department rather than to respective panchayats.”
‘Pay just Rs 2,000!’
However, there is a way out, according to Jasbir Singh Aujla, executive engineer of the water supply department at Malout, who said, “Our department has offered a one-time settlement scheme. A sum of Rs 2,000 has to be paid, and all pending dues shall be deemed cleared. The account shall start anew. We are getting a good response from the people.”