(This story originally appeared inon Oct 23, 2020)LUCKNOW: AmidUPgovernment’s promise to provide round-the-clockpower supplyto the consumers, and the proposal to privatise Purvanchal distribution company, the UP Power Corporation Limited’s (UPPCL) data show that more than 38% consumers have not paid their electricity bill since the date of connection.
The fact was shared by UPPCL chairman and additional chief secretary (energy) Arvind Kumar in a series of tweets on Thursday. He said that out of a consumer base of 2.83 crore, 1.09 crore consumers have not paid their bills. About 96% of these defaulters are from rural areas. UPPCL sources said that the amount recoverable from these consumers is around Rs 68,000 crore.
Significantly, of the over 1 crore consumers who have never paid their electricity connection, maximum 43 lakh — out of total 83 lakh — are from the Purvanchal Discom alone. Data shows that in Purvanchal alone, a staggering 3.78 lakh consumers are those who have pending arrears above Rs 1 lakh. “These figures show that the distribution company is in such a bad state of affairs,” said a senior UPPCL official. Sources said that this was one of the key reasons why the state government has been pitching for privatisation of Purvanchal districbution company, comprising Azamgarh, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Basti, Prayagraj and Varanasi zones.
Purvanchal is followed by Madhyanchal comprising Lucknow, Devi Patan and Ayodhya zones. Here, as many as 33.45 lakh consumers have not paid their bills since getting a connection. This discom has total 79 lakh consumers. In fact,Lucknowzone alone accounts for around 11 lakh such consumers. Data show that more than 1.7 lakh consumers account for those consumers who have pending arrears above Rs 1 lakh.
The Dakshinanchal discom follows next with over Rs 22 lakh consumers — out of 55 lakh — faltering on payment of their electricity bills. It is only Paschimanchal discom which has been performing well with just over 10 lakh such consumers. It has total 65 lakh consumers.
The chairman, in his tweets, also said: “A large chunk of defaulters may be bogus and may need bill revision. It is a big challenge before our officials to locate these consumers and find out what is recoverable and what is not. Power needs to be purchased for UPPCL to be able to supply. Unless people pay up, we won’t have enough finances to purchase.” (sic)
A senior UPPCL official said that the situation was despite the state government coming up with schemes like Aasan Kisht Yojana and One Time Settlement scheme, waiving surcharge on bills of consumers. Sources said that some of the consumers may be bogus or non-existent. “Yet the number of consumers which need to be tapped is significant,” the official said.
The arrears accounting for more than 38% come at a time when the state government seeks to bring down the line losses to 15%, which is more than half of what exists as on date, sources said. In fact, energy minister Shrikant Sharma has been seeking to bring down feeder wise line losses to wheel in round the clock power supply to the consumers.
Meanwhile, power engineers under the aegis of Vidyut Karamchari Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti submitted a detailed plan to improve the financial position of the UPPCL “within the existing system”. The samiti said that the areas which need to be worked on include billing, increasing revenue collection, stopping power theft and better working environment. It was only earlier this month that the power engineers and employees had gone on a work boycott in protest of UPPCL plans to privatise Purvanchal distribution company.
Explaining the reason for such a large number of defaulters while giving example of MVVNL, MD Surya Pal Gangwar said, “The figure of 33.45 lakh defaulters is still under scrutiny. We have found data of 2.5 lakh consumers who were issued double bills due to technical error when the data was fed into the system. Maximum defaulters are from rural areas.”
According to MVVNL, out of total 4,070 feeders in 19 districts, 1,272 (mostly in rural areas) are the worst performers in terms of revenue recovery. In each district, 60 underperforming feeders are being inspected by teams of 30 members each of vigilance and MVVNL staff (meter readers).