In a bid to checkmate BJP, the Energy Minister Dr. Nitin Raut on Friday announced that the state government will hold an inquiry into a record 321.42 % rise in arrears of the state-run Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MahaVitaran) at Rs 59,149.8 crore from Rs 14,154.5 crore during the BJP rule between 2014 and 2019. The rise has been mainly in the dues from agriculture consumers and it has landed MahaVitaran in a severe financial crisis.
The arrears have surged at Rs 16,525.3 crore as on March 2015, Rs 21,059.5 crore as on March 2016, Rs 26,333 crore as on March 2017, Rs 32,591.4 crore as on March 2018, Rs 41,133.8 crore as on March 2019, Rs 51,146.5 crore as on March 2020 and Rs 59,149.8 crore as on October 2020. Dr. Raut charged that the BJP led government failed to take necessary measures for the recovery of the mounting arrears and also to improve the MahaVitaran’s efficiency in recovery and functioning. He informed that a probe will be conducted into the factors that led to the rise in arrears and why it was allowed to mount. The probe panel is expected to make recommendations on action to be taken against the concerned authorities.
Dr. Raut’s announcement comes after BJP launched an agitation against the government’s turnaround over providing relief to the consumers of MahaVitaran in inflated bills received during the lockdown. ‘’The government will not be able to provide any relaxation in electricity bills. The power firms were making huge losses, and it was a "mess" inherited from the BJP government,’’ the minister said.
‘’He kasle Chowkidar he tar Thakabakidar’’ (Referring to BJP they are not chowkidar but they are defaulters) claimed the minister. He said BJP should not question him and the state government as the Centre has not yet cleared GST dues of Rs 38,000 crore to Maharashtra despite repeated pleas.
However, former energy minister and BJP leader Chandrashekhar Bawankule claimed that the state government was raising the issue of arrears to divert attention from its failure to keep its promise to waive the bills of the poor.
Meanwhile, Dr. Raut announced a complete waiver of delay payment charges and interest by farmers who are in arrears before 2015. The MahaVitaran will only recover the principal amount from the farmers. The interest rate will be 8 to 9 per cent instead of the current 18 per cent by waiving the delayed payment charges for arrears after 2015.