Congress cries over lack of funds
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Cracks have surfaced amongst the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi partners over the issue of providing relief to the electricity consumers for the inflated bills received during the lockdown. It comes a day after Energy Minister Dr Nitin Raut declared that electricity consumers will have to pay those excessive bills to the state-run Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MahaVitaran) citing its precarious finances and the lack of funds received from the state government.

Congress, which is a junior partner in the alliance, has once again expressed displeasure over the non-availability of necessary funds to their departments compared with Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). It has been perturbed over the recent decision by the Finance Department, held by NCP veteran and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, to provide Rs 1,000 crore to the Transport Department held by Shiv Sena to rescue the crisis ridden Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC).

However, Congress has cited that Dr Raut on eight occasions sent proposals to the Finance Department for the allocation of Rs 2,000 crore to provide subsidy to MahaVitaran, which in turn would have provided relief for the inflated electricity bills. Further, Dr Raut had also taken up the issue with the cabinet and during his meeting with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, but his efforts have failed so far.

Dr Raut had announced to provide free electricity to residential consumers with 0-100 units consumption and relief in excessive bills. Both remained on the paper for the want of funds. Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Vijay Wadettiwar said the issue will be taken up again at Thursday’s cabinet meeting. However, NCP state president and Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil said there has been no differences among the ruling partners.

Dr Raut made corrections in his statement, saying that MahaVitaran has not incurred a loss of Rs 69,000 crore, but its arrears from various consumers have surged at Rs 59,000 crore. “The dues from residential consumers in March rose to Rs 4,824 crore from Rs 1,374 crore, for commercial consumers from Rs 879 crore to Rs 1,241 crore and for industrial consumers from Rs 472 crore to Rs 982 crore,’’ he noted.

Further, he squarely blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government for the MahaVitaran’s present financial stress. “It is true that the coronavirus pandemic has adversely impacted MahaVitaran’s finances. But the biggest blow to MahaVitaran has come from the previous BJP government for not improving its efficiency and the lack of recovery of bills. During the BJP government, MahaVitaran’s arrears had soared at Rs 50,000 crore,’’ he said.

This is not the only case where Congress ministers have expressed dissatisfaction. The Tribal Welfare Minister KC Padvi and School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad had complained about the non availability of funds despite repeated pleas. The School Education Department had proposed to give an additional 20 per cent subsidy to schools in rural areas in addition to the existing 20 per cent, but there has been no funding.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Devendra Fadnavis has claimed that the MVA government has cheated people on the relief in inflated electricity bills. “They patted their own back and now they are saying there is no money,” he said.

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