The Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) has decided to waive off Delayed Payment Charges (DPCs) and disconnection for consumers who fail to make payments during the ongoing lockdown. Additionally, the utility is urging consumers to pay the interim bills online, which were generated based on the average meter readings, as staffers have been unable to complete physical meter readings.
On May 9, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had announced an extension to the deadline of payment of electricity bills, for the month of March-April, till May 30. He had also announced financial relief for small and middle class traders, shopkeepers and industries of the state by exempting them from fixed demand charge on their electricity bills for April-May. However, GEB also decided to waive off DPCs and suspend disconnections of meters with outstanding bills during the period of the lockdown.
A senior officer of GEB’s technical department told this newspaper that the utility had decided to prepare an average bill of over 1 crore consumers based on their meter readings of the last three bill cycles. “We have generated a virtual bill, which is available for payment on our websites when the consumers enter their account numbers. We have urged people to pay online for now, and the adjustments will be made in the next physical bills after completing the regular exercise of the actual meter readings. Safety of the meter reading staff is important… several areas are under red zone and containment, thus making it difficult to gather data in any case,” said the official.
Managing Director of Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Limited, Shahmeena Husain said that decisions were being taken on the basis of the development of the pandemic. “At the moment, we have decided to waive off DPCs and keep disconnections on hold. This is only for the outstanding bills during the times of the lockdown…We need to consider that unless all our billing windows are open and we are able to deliver physical copies of bills, we will have to defer penalties and actions. This does not apply to defaulters since before the lockdown. We will decide on the future course of action as the situation progresses and (subsequent) government decisions.”
Husain added that while the generation of the average bills is a temporary measure, utilities are also facing severe pressure of cash flows due to the lockdown and non-payment by consumers.
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