The Uddhav Thackeray government in Maharashtra has shelved its plan to absorb the power bills of domestic consumers for three months during the lockdown.
Citing mounting arrears, Energy Minister Nitin Raut on Tuesday announced that the government will not be able to provide any relaxations in power bills for the lockdown months of April, May and June. Consumers will have to pay the full amount as per the readings in the bills, he told mediapersons.
In the wake of complaints of excessive power bills being received by people, including by prominent industrialists and film celebrities, Raut’s department had in August proposed to bear the bulk of “additional” burden for the April-June period of the lockdown.
As per the proposal, all eligible households were liable to pay only for the units consumed in the corresponding months in 2019. For cases where the billed units for April, May and June this year exceed the corresponding usage by 100 units or less, the government had proposed to bear the entire cost of the surplus consumption. It had also proposed to absorb 50 per cent and 25 per cent of the extra burden for cases where the surplus billed units range between 101-300 units and 301-500 units, respectively.
But with the proposal – meant to benefit 1.14 crore households or 90 per cent of all residential consumers in Maharashtra – expected to cost the state exchequer Rs 1,071 crore, the finance department had raised several queries, stalling its further progress. The proposal in August was formulated following a meeting between Finance Minister Ajit Pawar and Raut.
Glossing over the delay in deciding on the proposal, Raut on Tuesday blamed mounting bill arrears and rising debt of the power distribution company for shelving of the plan.
“Mahaviran (state’s power discom) is also a consumer. It buys electricity from several power generation companies. Currently, Mahavitran is facing a deficit of Rs 69,000 crore, we cannot avail of further debt at this stage,” he said.
An alternate plan to waive the bills of the full three months for domestic consumers with consumption below 300 units also could not progress further.
Raut, a Congress minister, also blamed the Centre for not helping out. “We tried hard to provide benefits to the consumers but unfortunately the Centre did not help us,” he said.
On November 13, Raut had earlier agreed in principle to a bonus of employees of state-run power companies following protests from unions.
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