He reached an hour late, but the minute State Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule arrived at the first Janata Darbar organised by the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) on Thursday, rapid instructions were belted out to local residents to restrict their grievances to just one-liners.
“I don’t want any commentary… just give your name and complaint in one brief sentence, and the officer from the respective division should be present here,” Bawankule directed sternly.
It was after a rapid fire two-hour interaction with consumers that Bawankule admitted that 90 per cent of the 200 complaints were indeed genuine. “I have instructed officers to look into the matter and given my mobile number for consumers to personally report it if their grievances are not resolved,” he said.
The complaints ranged from how electricity meter readings were not accurate to the prolonged wait for a permanent connection. Among the poignant complaints was one from Jaibhai, who bitterly pointed out that he was charged Rs 150 for a copy of the consumer profile ledger, and one from a farmer who demanded compensation after his sugarcane crop was destroyed due to a short circuit from a power line that ran through his farm.
Responding to these complaints, Bawankule announced that such steep charges would no longer be levied, and directed that the farmer be compensated immediately.
On complaints about inaccurate electricity bills, the minister directed that on the 30th of each month, the consumer could take his own meter reading by downloading the MSEDCL’s mobile app. “It’s that simple. Now… the next complaint,” he said as the queue moved ahead.
The exercise also had some lighter moments, when two women involved in a family dispute took on each other at the darbar. The minister had to calm them down and tell them to keep their fight confined to their homes, and present only their complaint at the darbar. “I am here to resolve that,” he said.
One of the consumers, Waghmare from Hadapsar, raised the issue of irregularities in the Infrastructure – phase 2 project. He complained that as per the rules, the meter connection has to be installed within a month of the application being filed. When Waghmare claimed that there were more than 100 applications pending at Talegaon and Wadgaon, the minister snapped at the officer concerned, who sheepishly responded that the MSEDCL had not received sufficient meters. “How then do we supply them,” asked the officer.
The complaint by a retired MSEDCL official, Suryakant Kulkarni, was cut short when the minister bluntly told him to just place his demand for pension rather than beat around the bush.
Chandrakant Kale from Solapur bazaar was also told to keep his family dispute aside and not ask for disruption of power supply to other members of his family. “Remember, I have come here to ensure power for all,” the minister said, as his whirlwind Pune tour, which began with laying the foundation stone for a 22/11 KV sub station at Bopodi and Kothrud, and inaugurating a 22/22 KV switching station at Balewadi, concluded with a darbar to hear the grievances of consumers.