ENERGY MINISTER Chandrashekhar Bawankule has announced an amnesty scheme for electricity bill defaulters from the farm sector, in a bid to recover arrears amounting to over Rs 19,000 crore. The scheme aims at recovering 100 per cent of the principal amount owed by defaulters to the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL), within a year. They have the option of paying in equal installments.
As per the scheme — Chief Minister Krishi Sanjivani Yojana — agricultural users who have defaulted on electricity bills can pay arrears in equal installments by December 2018. Upon signing up for the scheme, MSEDCL will continue to provide electricity. If defaulters fail to register for the scheme or fail to pay arrears, the MSEDCL will disconnect power.
Defaulters have been categorised into two — those with arrears below Rs 30,000 and those above Rs 30,000. “We categorised them into two brackets. The scheme gives defaulters of both categories time to pay arrears,” said an official from the state energy department. Those with arrears below 30,000, can pay equal quarterly installments beginning December 2017. For those owing above Rs 30,000, the frequency is higher — 10 equal installments to be paid in an interval of 45 days. To register, consumers will have to clear their running bills by the end of November.
Depending on the response, the state government will decide whether to waive the fine and the interest. The scheme is a desperate, yet tough, attempt at recovering farm sector arrears, which amounts to Rs 19,272 crore including interest and fine. In the running bill for the April to June quarter, bills amounting to Rs 1,057 crore were generated. Consumers paid only Rs 195 crore, with the rest adding to the arrears. There are 41 lakh farm consumers in the state of whom 37.65 lakh are defaulters.
To take a stricter stand, the state has for the first time in at least five years allowed the MSEDCL to cut off power of defaulters if arrears are unpaid. “The state’s tough stand will help recover large amounts of arrears from the farm sector, which the MSEDCL has been struggling with. The recovered amount can be used for infrastructural development of the areas,” said a senior MSEDCL official.
Earlier, the state had announced amnesty schemes for permanently disconnected (PD) consumers. In November last year, the distributor had launched an amnesty scheme ‘Navprakash Yojana’ wherein if a PD consumer agreed to pay the principal amount, a part of the interest will be waived. The scheme rewarded early birds by waiving the entire interest component. An additional five percent waiver was granted on principal amounts for those who availed of the scheme within a month of the launch. Farmers originally not included in the scheme were introduced into the scheme in January this year. However, response to the scheme remained lukewarm.