Mumbai: BEST Faces Backlash Over Smart Meters

Mumbai: BEST Faces Backlash Over Smart Meters

Activists protest against installation; BEST argues smart meters promote responsible electricity use and allow real-time consumption monitoring; alert Citizen Forum submits complaints about lack of consultation.

Pranali LotlikarUpdated: Saturday, June 01, 2024, 12:52 AM IST
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Mumbai: BEST Faces Backlash Over Smart Meters | File Image

As activists across the city raise their voices against the installation of smart electric meters, BEST asserts that this initiative will encourage every citizen to become more responsible by actively managing their electricity use. According to the organisation, smart meters, similar to smartphones, will help citizens monitor their consumption in real-time rather than waiting until the end of the month when they receive a potentially shocking bill.

Last week, the Mumbai-based NGO Alert Citizen Forum collected complaints from residents of Dongri and Byculla against BEST and submitted them to the local police station. The complaints stated that BEST had only posted a notice outside their residences without giving them a chance to voice their concerns or explaining why the meters were being changed. Residents suspect that BEST might be hiding something.

Qaid Zoher S Mithaiwala, a founding member of the Alert Citizen Forum, told the Free Press Journal that there needs to be better governance. “The notices sent to citizens are very vague. The authorities are planning privatisation under the guise of BEST,” Mithaiwala said.

Activist Kamlakar Shenoy, also involved in the issue, clarified that they are not against the development or smart meters per se, but oppose how they are being introduced. “The average cost of a meter was an exorbitant Rs12,000, and the notice mentioned it was not chargeable. While no money will be charged upfront, the expenses will be included in a petition for a tariff hike next year. Eventually, consumers will bear the burden,” Shenoy added.

Meanwhile, BEST said that citizens should not worry about the move, as it aims to benefit them by fostering more alert and responsible behaviour. A BEST official, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed on the need for greater awareness about the change, noting that all necessary information is available on their website.

“There is a FAQ section on our website that answers all citizens’ queries and concerns,” the official said.

A report published in November 2023 revealed electricity theft amounting to 1.7 lakh units in the Mira-Bhayender area, with a total recovery amount assessed at Rs30 lakh, according to Adani Electricity. Commenting on this, a BEST official said, “There is indeed a significant amount of electricity theft in the city. The purpose of this change is to eliminate these issues and ensure the effective use of taxpayer money. Why should a taxpayer pay for theft? Smart meters will help us identify culprits immediately.”

The official further explained, “When we install these meters, they will provide regulated readings. If the readings increase abnormally, we can catch the thief immediately. There will be close monitoring of such anti-social elements. Also, in cases of power failure, smart meters will alert us immediately, reducing the need for long waiting calls and enabling us to work more efficiently for the people.”

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