Electricity bill arrears of power consumers in Maharashtra have shot up by nearly Rs 8,000 crore during the lockdown.
The Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited’s (Mahavitran) pending bill recoveries rose from Rs 51,145 crore in March to Rs 59,102 crore in October.
During the seven-month period, there was a 251 per cent rise in the bill arrears of residential consumers.
According to Energy Minister Dr Nitin Raut’s own admission, the arrears in this category had risen from Rs 1,374 crore to Rs 4,824 crore, with 55.98 lakh consumers defaulting of bill payments.
Outstanding bills from commercial establishments also rose from Rs 879 crore in March to Rs 1,241 crore in October, whereas arrears of industrial consumers rose from Rs 472 crore to Rs 982 crore amid restrictions due to the lockdown. Farm electricity arrears continue to be the biggest chunk of dues in the state.
Tightrope walk for MVA
In August, following complaints of high power bills by residents, Raut’s department had announced a Rs 1,071-crore plan to absorb a portion of the payables for residential consumers for April, May and June. But the proposal could not go ahead amid queries raised on it by the NCP-led finance department.
On Tuesday, Raut, a Congress minister, cited Mahavitran’s mounting arrears, to announce that the government will not be able to provide any relaxations in power bills for April, May and June
and urged consumers to pay
Politics over Raut’s latest announcement intensified on Wednesday, with the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Devendra Fadnavis, accusing the government of betraying the masses and demanding a Rs 5,000-crore relief package for power consumers.
Raju Shetti of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghathana, an ally of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, also dared the government to recover the pending bills.
Sources said that the Congress is miffed with Finance Minister and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar for stalling the proposal.
A senior Congress minister said that Pawar’s department had agreed for a dole to bail out the Sena-led transport department.
Indicating towards a division within the government, senior Congress minister Vijay Wadettiwar said that there was discontent among people over high power bills.
Backing the now shelved plan of absorbing a portion of the power bills, he added that he will raise the issue in the upcoming Cabinet meeting.
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