Frustrated by its unsuccessful efforts to convince defaulters to cough out their pending power bills, the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co. Ltd. (MSEDCL) has now resorted to a 'lilting' power-packed strategy to lure the consumers and fill its coffers.
In a unique initiative, the MSEDCL - the state's power supplier - has launched a Marathi audio song - apparently inspired by the immensely popular "Sonu" songs crooned by Mumbai RJ Malishka Mendonca a few years ago which had rattled the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
The MSEDCL's new song likens its pet power users as 'Sonu' and lyrically asks: "Sonu, don't you want to pay the electric bills?" and it has gone viral on social media, especially in the rural areas of the state.
It goes on to point out how dear 'Sonu' is a much-respected figure in his village, who flaunts his affluence, charges his mobile, fills up his vehicle (with fuel), uses the TV, fridge, geyser, toaster, et al, without care at home.
"And 'Sonu' is our favourite customer his collar's tight he uses all electrical equipment merrily But, 'Sonu, don't you want to pay the electric bills?," the song appeals.
The singer reminds the customers that the hashtag of progress is light, if they pay up the bill, it will signal a 'bright future for the state and country.
The pacy song also weaves in the allurements offered to customers by MSEDCL including discounts, instalments and other benefits if they clear up their dues on time.
"Yes, we launched the song earlier this week The response has been very good and it's having an impact Many customers are now coming forward to clear their electric bills," an elated MSEDCL Spokesperson P.S. Patil told IANS.
Besides the catchy number, the MSEDCL has launched a series of 'public awareness campaigns across the state, including door-to-door campaigns, mobile SMS's and social media appeals, a small gathering in rural areas, etc, to convince the dodgers to cough out outstandings.
In a bolt from the blue, from March 1, the MSEDCL, with 2.72-crore consumers, clamped down on the estimated one crore defaulters, including around 44 lakh agriculture users who have allegedly not paid their electricity bills since the past one year.
Consequently, the MSEDCL has mounted arrears of a whopping Rs.70,000-crore, raising concerns on its sustenance and survival, as echoed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Energy Minister Dr. Nitin Raut in the past.
Ignoring the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party onslaught and celebs' sniggers, the MSEDCL went hammer and pliers after the bill defaulters and in past 13 days reportedly snapped off the power connections of at least 10-lakh consumers comprising domestic, commercial, industrial, agriculture and other sectors.
"There's a silver lining finally The consumers ('Sonu') are queueing up We are offering them various incentives to enable them to become debt-free," Patil said.
Maharashtra has over 44 lakh power-guzzling agriculture pumps - the highest in the country, but 95 per cent of them allegedly never paid their electricity bills, and to lure them, the state launched 'Maha Krishi Abhiyaan' offering them 50 per cent waiver if they cleared full dues.
"For the first time, the agriculturists have started paying their dues and we have collected more than Rs 500 crore in the past one week only Many are clearing their bills at one shot, like the Nanded Gurudwara with 28 agriculture pumps which paid Rs 7.80 lakhs at one go," Patil said.
As per the directives of Thackeray and Raut, the entire amount being recovered from the rural areas will be ploughed back for developing the local power infrastructure with a focus on 'renewable sources', since the state is already free of 'load-shedding' and entered the 'surplus power' era.