Written by Aggam Walia
In Panchkula’s Motor Market, on a small desk outside a tyre shop, sits Narendra Sharma, a retired SDO who worked with the electricity department. Post-retirement, in 2005, Mr Sharma started a consultancy service for people facing electricity-related problems.
Since then, he has assisted hundreds of complainants to register their complaints at the electricity department and get prompt responses. His customers are people who are having difficulty getting electrical connections or those who are being charged exorbitant amounts of money due to faulty meter readings. Sharma guides helpless citizens through the tedious process of dealing with government departments free of cost.
“After retirement, I wanted to serve the people. I was getting a good pension and my daughters were all settled. So, I had no problems there. I did not want to die without helping people. I wanted to do something useful in my old age”, says Sharma. His experience in the electricity department, where he served for 35 years, aids him to effectively serve his customers. “No department makes things easy for people. I tell them what their rights are and show them where they are being exploited by the department”, explains Sharma.
When asked about his methods, Sharma says, “ I study where the problem is. Then, I take it up with the department. If they don’t respond, I take the matter to Consumer Grievances Redressal Forum (CGRF). Most of the times, the matter gets settled there. However, there have been cases where I approached the Office of the Electricity Ombudsman in Gurugram”.
Rajan, owner of a small shop near Sharma’s desk, approached him a few years back, seeking help to prove to the department that his meter readings were faulty. “One month, my bill was nearly five lakh. I have a small shop and don’t use that much electricity, so the amount was shocking”, says Rajan. Mr Sharma approached the department and the CGRF, however, his attempts proved futile. Eventually, the Ombudsman in Gurugram came to his rescue and concluded that the readings were inflated. “It is very difficult to do this without help because the common man doesn’t know the rules”, says Rajan.
One Deepak was recently charged thousands of rupees for sundry charges. However, the department failed to mention the specifics of the charges. Mr Sharma is currently corresponding with the department to sort this issue out.
Sharma is also helping residents of Shashtri Nagar where they receive electricity from a single private contractor. The contractor charges at very high rates and “the residents are not getting proper voltage due to improper system laid by the contractor” according to the complaint sent to CGRF.
Sharma spends at least three hours every morning to help these people. He says people in the department sometimes get irritated by his persistent efforts, but that does not deter his spirit. He hopes to continue this hobby, as he calls it, for years to come.