Camps from Dec 1 to let farmers get inflated bills checked, corrected

Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule says the camps will be set up at feeder levels for a month

Picture for representational purpose

AGRICULTURE PUMP users, who have been alleging that their electricity bills had been inflated, will now have a chance to get their bills corrected as Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule has announced that camps would be set up at feeder levels. The month-long camp begins December 1 and farmers can get their bills checked for inflation and corrected. The decision is one of the several attempts that the state energy department is making to reduce bill arrears that the farm sector owes to the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL). In October, Bawankule had announced an amnesty scheme — Chief Minister Krishi Sanjivani Yojana — for bill defaulters from the farm sector in an attempt to recover arrears amounting to over Rs 19,000 crore. However, officials in the department said the response was lukewarm.

Meanwhile, farmers and consumer associations had said they would not avail the amnesty scheme as they had been overbilled by the MSEDCL to cover losses incurred by the discom. The Maharashtra Electricity Consumer Association had also started a campaign by mobilising farmers against the scheme. It had said the MSEDCL wrongfully overbilled around 5 lakh farm consumers and it was unfair for the discom to push farmers to pay arrears.

However, Bawankule Wednesday announced that camps would be held across the state where farmers could get their bills corrected. The minister has announced relief to the defaulters in the amnesty scheme. While earlier defaulters had to pay their current bill to be eligible for the scheme, now they can participate by paying Rs 3,000 if they owe less than Rs 30,000. For those with arrears above Rs 30,000, the minimum amount is Rs 5,000.

The amnesty scheme aims to recover 100 per cent of the principal owed by bill defaulters within a year. According to the scheme, agricultural users who have defaulted on their electricity bills can pay their arrears in equal installments over the next year by December 2018. Upon signing up for the scheme, the MSEDCL will continue to provide electricity. However, if farm defaulters fail to register for the scheme or pay their arrears, the MSEDCL will resort to snapping connections. Though the response to the scheme was not as expected, it has fetched the cash-strapped discom Rs 200 crore in recovery.

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