NAGPUR: State-runpowerdiscom Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) is indire straitsasconsumersare not paying bills and their dues are continuously mounting. Director (finance) Ravindra Sawant has asked all chief engineers (CEs) to start recovering dues but has not ordered disconnection of defaulting consumers.
In a recent letter to the CEs, Sawant stated, “Considering the acute shortage of funds, it has become very difficult to manage even day-to-day expenditures. To improve the liquidity position of MSEDCL we need to start recovery of current demand as well as arrears by taking appropriate action.”
The arrears owed by non-agricultural consumers to MSEDCL in March 2020 were Rs2,726 crore. This figure shot up to Rs6,829 crore in September 2020, which translates into an increase of 150 per cent, or 2.5 times the March figure. In addition, farmers owe thousands of crores to the discom.
An MSEDCL official told TOI, “Due to the low recovery, we are unable to pay offgeneration companies, which in turn are defaulting on bills of coal companies. Consumers should realize that power does not come for free and start paying their bills regularly, and also clear their past dues. Otherwise it will become difficult to run the show.”
According to the official, opposition parties were largely responsible for the mess. “Even though we did not send inflated bills to consumers and provided them instalments, the opposition parties created an impression that we were overcharging the consumers,” he said.
The official added, “Consequently, many consumers just refused to pay their bills. They have been told by opposition leaders that the latter will not allow their connections to be disconnected.”
The steps recommended by Sawant include: approaching high-value consumers through telephone or e-mail and taking continuous follow-ups till complete recovery, resolving billing complaints of consumers immediately, increasing consumer awareness regarding online payment of bills as a completely safe option through advertisements, and approaching division-level government officers for recovery of dues owed by their departments.
Former energy minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule, however, blamed the company for the mess. “MSEDCL issued average bills during the summer and sent huge bills after that. People felt cheated and hence did not pay the bills. MSEDCL should correct the bills first,” he told TOI.
Bawankule added, “Secondly, state government should waive 300 units per family for the months of March, April, May and June and compensate MSEDCL for the same. MSEDCL should then recover the remaining dues.”