Hyderabad, June (IANS) A small farmer in Telangana's Kamareddy was literally shocked to receive a power bill of over Rs 7 lakh for the lockdown period.
Three bulbs and two fans are all that G. Srinivas has at his house in Isrojiwada village and his average monthly power is Rs 500.
Srinivas had paid Rs 415 in February. He, however, could not pay the bills in March, April and May due to the lockdown.
The employees of the power distribution companies visit the houses in the first week of every month to take the meter reading and generate bills based on the units consumed. However, this was not done for three months due to the lockdown.
With the easing of lockdown, the employees resumed meter reading and generating bills. Srinivas received a big shock when he was issued a bill of Rs 7,29,417.
While this may be a case of faulty reading going by the farmer's monthly average bill, thousands of consumers across Telangana have not only received the shock in the form of inflated bills but have no option but to pay.
The domestic consumers were in for a shock last week when the staff visited their houses and served the bills for the total units consumed during the last three months. Many consumers have complained that they were charged 50 to 80 per cent in excess over their average monthly bill.
Consumers say the bills were inflated as the charges were levied, based on the cumulative units for the entire period. Since the power distribution companies follow the slab system, the entire bill is calculated on higher tariff levels. This automatically led to a big jump in the bills.
The complaints have poured in from all parts of the state and cutting across all sections.
Energy Minister G. Jagadish Reddy himself said two MLAs and his secretary also complained of high bills but claimed that they were satisfied after his explanation.
The minister's argument is that since people remained indoors during the lockdown period, there was an increase in the power consumption.
According to him, electricity consumption during the summer goes up by 35 per cent to 40 per cent and this year. it had gone up by another 10 to 15 per cent due the lockdown.
Claiming that the bills were generated in a transparent manner, he denied that they are inflated.
While the minister claimed that the total units consumed were equally split into three months and the bills were not calculated based on the total units consumed during the period as a whole, the situation on the ground is different.
"We are billing the consumers based on the cumulative units for the entire period. This is what we have been told by the higher-ups," an employee of an outsourcing agency of the Telangana State Southern Power Distribution Company Ltd (TSSPDCL) told IANS while taking a reading at a house in Toli Chowki area in Hyderabad.
The consumer, who used to get an average Rs 2,000 monthly bill during summer, was billed for over Rs 8,000 for three months.
The higher bills have caused concern among people already worried over the lockdown impacting their incomes.
The inflated bills have also sparked protest by the opposition parties, which alleged that the government is adding to the people's woes. The main opposition Congress party had called for a march to the state secretariat on Thursday to lodge its protest. The police placed its leaders under house arrest to foil the protest.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties have also called for protest over the inflated bills.