THE MAHARASHTRA State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) has recovered Rs 200 crore from defaulting farm consumers within 15 days of the launch of an amnesty scheme. In October, Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule had announced an amnesty scheme — Chief Minister Krishi Sanjivani Yojana — for bill defaulters from the farm sector in an attempt to recover arrears amounting to over Rs 19,000 crore. Despite a lukewarm response from the farmers, the amnesty scheme has given a boost to the cash-strapped discom’s recovery rate.
A senior official from the state energy department said that monthly recovery improved by almost Rs 1,500 crore from an average of Rs 4,200 crore. “The amnesty scheme has fetched us Rs 200 crore in 15 days and it is expected to be higher by November 30. Of course, there are other measures that the MSEDCL is taking to improve recovery and we are seeing a difference,” said the official.
The amnesty scheme aims to recover 100 per cent of the principal owed by bill defaulters within a year. According to the scheme, agricultural users, who have defaulted on electricity bills, can pay arrears in equal installments over the next year by December 2018.
Upon signing up for the scheme, the MSEDCL will continue to provide electricity. However, if farm defaulters fail to register for the scheme or pay their arrears, the MSEDCL will resort to snapping connections.
However, sources said the response was not as good as expected and the MSEDCL had to extend the deadline for registering under the scheme from November 15 to November 30. Meanwhile, a statewide consumer association has launched a signature drive opposing the scheme. The Maharashtra Electricity Consumer Association has said that the MSEDCL has wrongfully overbilled around 5 lakh farm consumers and it was unfair for the discom to push farmers to pay arrears. It has demanded that the apart from correcting the bill amounts, the government further incentivises farmers for opting for the scheme.
“The scheme aims at recovering 100 percent of the principal amount. We ask that 50 percent of the principal amount be waived if a farmer opts for the scheme,” said Pratap Hogade, chairperson of the association.