As many as 780 schools run by the Pune Zilla Parishad which started functioning from last month have to make do without electricity. Reason: MSEDCL, the state power utility, has severed electricity connections to these schools for non-payment of pending dues.
According to MSEDCL officials, Pune ZP has to collectively pay a pending amount of Rs 62 lakh. “Yes, electricity to Pune ZP schools has been severed for non-payment of power dues,” MSEDCL spokesperson Anil Kamble said.
Kamble said the MSEDCL’s action is as per the directives of the government. “The government reimburses the power bills to the ZP. Yet it has failed to pay the pending dues,” MSEDCL officials said.
Kamble said the power connections were not severed during the lockdown period but much before. “I don’t have to exact date when connections were severed to these schools. But it was done after serving them during reminders,” he said.
MSEDCL officials said Pune ZP was not the only one which had lost power connection due to non-payment of dues. “There are over 10,000 schools run by various Zilla Parishads whose electricity connections were severed due to non-payment of dues of Rs 6 crore. Solapur ZP owes Rs 48 lakh while Aurangabad ZP owes Rs 42 lakh,” said officials.
Kamble said the MSEDCL will restore the power connections only after the dues are paid. “Till that time, we will not restore power,” he said.
ZP officials said the government has set up a fund which the ZP will use to pay the pending arrears. When contacted, ZP CEO Ayush Prasad the state government will be paying the dues to MEDCL. “The government has already issued a GR to this effect,” he said. Prasad said the gram panchayats are supposed to pay the operating costs. “They could not pay because of the lockdown period…We have some 5,000 schools,” he said.
Schools in Pune rural areas started last month after being shut in March due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
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