THE MAHARASHTRA government is resorting to unconventional methods to recover pending electricity bills in defaulter-prone zones. The Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) has sought help from local politicians in such regions to urge defaulters to pay outstanding bills, said an official from the distribution company.
“We are tying up with local leaders, corporators and MLAs in the zones where arrears are high. In return for the payment of the bills, the MSEDCL promises to undertake infrastructure development worth the recovered amount,” said the official, adding that the process has just been started. He said the Marathwada belt, which includes Aurangabad, Parbhani, Jalna and Nanded, topped the list of defaulter-prone zones. “We are targeting these areas in particular,” he added.
According to figures from the MSEDCL, by November last year, the state distribution company was supposed to recover arrears worth Rs 29,906.29 crore from defaulters. The agricultural sector owed the highest chunk among the list of defaulters — farmers owe the MSEDCL Rs17,017.73 crore, exclusive of subsidies from the government. Civic and local bodies owe Rs 2,614.58 crore to the distributor for street lights.
Residential, commercial and industrial users together account for Rs 2,163.39 crore. Permanently disconnected (PD) consumers account for the second biggest chunk in the arrears at Rs 6,436 crore, of which around Rs 1,900 crore is interest. Recovering the arrears has been a challenge for the cash-strapped distributor and now the state energy department is working on measures to reduce the arrears.
“With two consecutive good monsoons, we are expecting that farmers will have a good year. In the upcoming harvest season, we will begin a drive to recover pending bills. We have devised some unconventional methods to do so,” said a senior official of the state energy department.
Over the past few years, the arrears have increased sharply. While by the end of fiscal year 2014-15, the MSEDCL was owed more than Rs 21,000 crore, the arrears increased to around Rs 26,000 crore by March last year.
In November last year, the distributor had launched an amnesty scheme ‘Navprakash Yojna’ through which if a PD consumer agreed to pay the principal amount, a part of the interest component was to be waived off. The scheme also rewarded the early birds — the entire interest component was waived and an additional five per cent waiver was granted on principal sums for those who availed of the scheme within a month of its launch. Farmers, who were originally not included in the scheme, were introduced into the scheme in January this year.