Political parties like AAP and some activists have slammed the “U-turn” by state Energy Minister Nitin Raut in providing relief to power consumers over inflated bills for the lockdown period, even as the state Congress scotched speculations about any rift in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government over the issue.
“The rumours about Congress being upset in the MVA government are not true,” said state Congress spokesperson Gopal Tiwari on Wednesday.
The party’s reaction came after Vijay Wadettiwar, a Congress minister in the state government, said the demand for a relief package by the state Energy department has not been fulfilled by the Finance department, headed by Ajit Pawar.
“We believe that not only the Energy department’s demand but also demands by other ministries for a package should be considered sympathetically by the Finance department….
This is not about the Congress party alone, but about the accountability of the state government,” said Tiwari.
Criticising the Union Energy Ministry, Tiwari said, “The lockdown hit the revenue of state governments. Though several proposals for relief were sent by the state Power department… the Union Ministry refused to pay heed to them. As a result, the MVA government has not been able to extend the promised relief to power consumers in the bills sent by MSEDCL.”
After consumers started getting inflated bills during the lockdown, Raut had promised to provide some concession in the bills. However, on Tuesday, he said his ministry was not in a position to provide the relief. He said the state’s power arrears have risen to Rs 69,000 crore, of which Rs 50,000 crore are pending from the time when the BJP-led government was in power.
“Mahavitaran buys electricity from other sources… It is facing a deficit of Rs 69,000 crore. We wanted to provide concession to the consumers but unfortunately, the Centre is not helping us,” Raut had said on Tuesday.
Vivek Velenkar of Sajag Nagrik Manch said, “It is surprising that when a road toll contractor can be paid Rs 174 crore as compensation for the lockdown period, why are the common people being ignored?”
Velenkar said in response to an RTI application filed by him, the state government has provided him information that a road contractor has been compensated to the tune of Rs 174 crore for loss in toll collection suffered during the lockdown period. “This was actually the policy of the central government, which the state government promptly implemented. On this count, both the MVA government and the BJP are maintaining silence. Road contractors are important for them, but not the common man who has been burdened with an inflated bill for no fault of theirs,” he said.
Mukund Kirdat, who heads the Pune unit of Aam Aadmi Party, said, “The minister himself had tweeted that his ministry has sent a proposal to the state Finance department, giving 75 per cent concession in bills up to 100 units usage, 50 per cent concession in 100 to 300 units usage and 25 per cent concession in 300 to 500 units usage. Last week, he had said that the proposal had been submitted to the Finance department on its request. This week, he said no concession in the bill can be given due to poor economic condition of the state government.”
Kirdat said even the Shiv Sena, one of the constituents of the MVA, had promised 30 per cent rebate in power bills in its manifesto. “Why is the Sena silent despite heading the MVA government,” he asked.
Demanding a complete waiver in power bills for the lockdown period, Santosh Shinde of Sambhaji Brigade said, “The state government is trying to steal the money of hapless consumers who received inflated bills for the lockdown period… We demand that the government keep its promise and waive bills for the lockdown period.”
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