CRACKING THE whip on bill defaulters, the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) has cut off the power connections to over 96,000 non-agricultural consumers in the state. So far, the connections of only residential, commercial and industrial consumers have been suspended and soon a similar action will be initiated against agricultural consumers with huge arrears.
The state-owned distribution company initiated action against defaulters on November 5 and has since withdrawn power supply from around 20,000 consumers from Baramati zone, 19,000 from Vidarbha, 37,000 in Pune zone, 19,000 in Marathwada zone and 1,400 in Bhandup zone. The total arrears with these now-disconnected consumers amount to over Rs 800 crore.
Last month, Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule had announced an amnesty scheme for bill defaulters from the farm sector in an attempt to recover arrears amounting to over Rs 19,000 crore. During the announcement, the minister made it clear that the state was interested in recovering 100 percent of the principal amount. The state has also for the first time in at least five years allowed the MSEDCL to cut off the connections to defaulters if arrears are left unpaid.
The disconnection drive by the MSEDCL is a desperate attempt to recover the large arrears pending for years. Over 69.75 lakh residential, commercial and industrial consumers together owe the discom arrears of Rs 3,942 crore. Of these, residential consumers form the biggest chunk — 61,90,000 consumers owe over Rs1,770 crore. While the action against non-agricultural consumers has already been initiated, the discom is yet to begin the disconnection drive for farm consumers.
“We are waiting to see how many farm consumers sign up for the amnesty scheme. They can do so until November 15. After the deadline, we will analyse the situation and initiate action,” said an MSEDCL official who did not wish to be named.
According to the new scheme — Chief Minister Krishi Sanjivani Yojana — agricultural users, who have defaulted on their electricity bills, can pay their arrears in equal installments over the next year by December 2018. Upon signing up for the scheme, the MSEDCL will continue to provide electricity. However, if farm defaulters fail to register for the scheme or pay their arrears, the MSEDCL will resort to disconnecting connections.