The Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco) last month launched ‘Minnagam’, a service call centre to address consumer grievances. Chief Minister MK Stalin inaugurated the service at Tangedco’s headquarters in Chennai.
The cell has 195 staff working in three shifts. Customers can call 94987 94987 to register complaints relating to power failures, new connections, billing issues, replacement of old poles, etc.
The state had launched a similar call centre in 2013, with 30 operators working round the clock, but it failed to address most of the issues. Then in 2017, Tangedco announced a WhatsApp number for complaints, but that initiative also did not last.
Consumers say the new initiative is old wine in new bottle – that following the regime change, the consumer cell also had to change.
“Most of the times the numbers are engaged and there is a shortage of manpower. Because of these reasons the previous consumer cells were unable to address the grievances quickly,” said Shanmugam, a former TNEB employee in Tirunelveli.
Where the state government has failed to provide solutions, NGOs have stepped in.
Chennai-based NGO Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) launched an electricity consumer cell (ECC) to address grievances in three districts, namely Cuddalore, Tiruvallur and Tirunelveli.
“The ECC will act as a bridge between the consumers and Tangedco. In government consumer cells, consumers just file complaints and wait for the officials to take action. But in ECC, once consumers file a complaint with us, we take it to our in-house advisor. They guide the consumers. Sometimes, if the consumer is unable to approach the officials, we take the issue to higher officials and try to find a solution,” said K Vishnu Mohan Rao, senior researcher, CAG.
CAG has also set up ECCs in Salem, Tiruvannamalai, Vellore and Trichy. In each district, CAG teamed up with local civil society organisations to set up the facility. Every ECC has one retired employee from Tangedco as adviser and a coordinator. Shanmugam is one such adviser for Tirunelveli ECC.
“We receive complaints about billing, meters, new connections, power quality, infrastructure and other miscellaneous services like solar photo voltaic lights issues, etc. We have addressed nearly 3,000 complaints,” Rao said.
Pass, an NGO which has an ECC in Trichy, said it received about 20 complaints every month. “We are able to find solutions for 95 per cent of the complaints,” said Vanaja, director.
“We even receive complaints that were earlier sent to Tangedco, but remained unaddressed. People believe we can provide a solution. So now they contact us. We have coordinators to follow up the complaints and that’s another reason for our success,” she said.