Exorbitant electricity bills add to consumer woes in Maharashtra

The state has opened two helpline numbers for consumers to register their billing-related grievances

Electric-meter
Energy minister Nitin Raut has announced a 2 per cent concession on bills paid this month in a single instalment | Representative Photo: iStock

Power consumers in different parts of Maharashtra, including Mumbai, have alleged that they were receiving exorbitant electricity bills for June, and several complaints have been lodged with the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) in this regard.

State energy minister Nitin Raut announced a 2% concession on bills paid this month in a single instalment. Consumers can also opt for paying in three equal instalments, wherein they will have to cough up only one-third of the amount this month, and the rest later.

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This ‘unusual’ increase has brought to the fore several incidents of alleged irregularities, like that of Sumit Mavle, a resident of Pune, who claimed he has been charged three times the usual amount, for a room that has remained shut for two months.

“I’m sure I did not consume so many units in the past two months. But the worst part is that I have been charged ₹1,100 for a room that has remained shut during this period. This is not at all acceptable,” said Mavle, who wants a probe into this alleged irregularity.

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A similar allegation was made by Manisha Gayawal, another Pune resident, who said that she has been charged multiple times the usual amount. “We used to consume around 90 units a month. But in the current cycle, it shows 412 units, which is inexplicable,” she said.

Another resident of the city, who regularly uses air conditioner, claimed she would receive a bill amount of ₹1,400-1,500 every month. “However, the bill amount has touched ₹5,000 this month even though our usage has been the same,” she said.

The situation is similar in state capital Mumbai, where voiceover artiste Kartik Shete said he has been paying bill amounts of ₹180-220 every month, but it has increased five-fold this time. Shete has had no income for the last four months due to the lockdown.

This increase in billing amount has not spared even celebrities in Mumbai. Tapasee Pannu, a Bollywood actress of Thappad and Pink fame, recently tweeted there was an “insane rise” in her electricity bill, along with photos of her bill.

The state government has provided two helpline numbers, 9833567777/9833717777, for the consumers to register their grievances related to billing.

The Federal’s attempt to contact Nishikant Raut, spokesperson of MSEDCL, for his views on this issue did not elicit any response.

A similar increase in electricity bill amount was reported from the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well. A resident of Chennai, on the condition of anonymity, claimed that she and her flatmate were charged ₹17,000 in the past four months.

“I never thought that two people staying in a 2 BHK flat will have to pay ₹17,000 bill for four months. It’s highly impossible that we would have used 4,000 units even when we used air conditioners every day,” claimed the consumer.

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“In fact, of these four months, I was alone at home for over two months, which means there’s definitely some calculation error,” she added.

In Kerala, actor and award-winning director K Madhupal claimed that he had received a bill of ₹5,914 for April and May for his house that had remained locked since March. However, he said that it was sorted immediately by authorities.

“I was staying in another house with my family. When I saw a live programme on television (on this), I called up the (helpline) number shown there, and got a good response from the Kerala State Electricity Board,” he told The Federal.

“I received a call from KSEB the next morning by 10 am. They said they visited the house and checked the meter. The house was kept open as some maintenance work was going on. They told me that my bill has been reduced to ₹300,” he added.

The KSEB follows a ‘door locked system’ to assess the bills of houses that remain locked for some time. Such consumers have to pay an average amount based on previous months’ bills. This was what happened in Madhupal’s case.

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