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A widow of a labourer was handed a power bill of Rs 49,595 by the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company (WBSEDCL). She is not the only one who has been charged with such an exorbitant amount.
At a time when state power minister, Shobhandeb Chatterjee, has asked the CESC consumers not to clear the power bill dues till fresh bills are served, the marginal labourer families in rural Bengal are having to pay ‘exorbitant’ power bills charged by the state owned West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company (WBSEDCL).
Tapas Gorai, a labourer at Chhoto Mitrapara in Kalna town, died two months ago. His widow, Bina, earns livelihood by worker as a domestic maid.
She received a power bill worth Rs 49,595 against power consumption by two electric fans and five bulbs and tubelights.
There are uncountable consumers, mostly marginal labour families in rural Bengal, who are being expected to cough up an amount that is beyond their earning limits.
The minister and the top WBSEDCL officials are still to prescribe any remedy for the affected families who are reeling under the pressure to bear such inflated power bills. Raju Mondal, regional manager, WBSEDCL in Burdwan said, “Let the consumers file complaints with their respective local power supply offices and then we may take the matter for scrutiny.”
He added: “We suspect that the method of average billing has created confusion. The method was adopted since meter reading staff couldn’t visit houses during the pandemic.”
Nasera Sheikh, of Chenchuri village in neighbouring Katwa’s Ketugram block was served a power bill worth Rs 30,000 and her neighbourer Hakim Sheikh, a wage labourer received a bill worth Rs 42,100.
“I have two fans and four bulbs at my house which used fetch a bill below Rs 500. I am asked to pay this hefty amount and the local office told us first to clear the bill and then place an appeal for consideration.
“I am a marginal labourer. How will I arrange this huge sum of money during this pandemic situation when people are losing jobs and business are shrinking?” Considering the plight of marginal consumers, the state, during its 2020-21 budget, placed in February, had declared absolute waiver of power bill for those consuming up to 75 units quarterly and having below three kilowatt load capacity.
The affected consumers however made a reverse claim that instead of giving relief, the state rather has taxed inflated bills on marginal labourers and the middleclass.