In a bid to provide relief to the consumers reeling under the shock of inflated bills during lockdown, the Maharashtra Government has a proposal under consideration for a complete waiver for consumers of 0-100 units. For those consuming 101-300 units, the government is mulling 75% relief, for using 301-500 units, about 50% relief and for users of 501 units and above, 25%.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who met with power distribution companies and the Maharashtra State Electricity Regulatory Commission authorities two days ago, said the proposal would be put forth for cabinet approval at the meeting slated for next week.
The cabinet will also decide about subsidy to the power distribution utilities as envisaged in section 65 of the Electricity Act. The government will have to apportion money from the budget and will also have to take the crucial decision on giving subsidies to both the public power distribution utilities -- the MahaVitaran and the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation’s transport and electricity undertaking, the BrihanMumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) -- and also to private entities such as Tata Power and Adani Electricity.
Energy expert Ashok Pendse told The Free Press Journal, ‘‘It remains to be seen whether the state government’s proposed relief is restricted to March, April and May or for the entire financial year. Mumbai consumers are supplied by BEST, Tata Power, Adani Electricity and MahaVitaran. So, does the government desire to give relief to consumers of both, public and private distribution companies? If the government gives relief only to public companies, it will be discriminatory towards Mumbai consumers.’’ He said the impact on the treasury would have to be considered in the present scenario.
The government’s move comes following the steady uproar over inflated charges by power distribution companies, based on the average consumption of the three months prior to March 2020. The distribution companies argued that even though the MERC’s revised tariff came into effect during lockdown from April 1, they could not visit consumers' premises to obtain meter readings. Therefore, they issued bills based on the average consumption during the lockdown (March-May), except where automatic meter reading facilities were available.
Subsequently, the MERC directed the power discoms to take a slew of measures, such as the introduction of EMI, instalments and non-disconnection of electricity. But despite these directives, consumer bodies and political parties have been raising their voices over high bills, seeking relief from the government.