Defaulting on power bill to leave Mumbai's top authorities in the dark?

In an effort to recover over Rs 53 crore pending in electricity bills, the BEST Undertaking could well disconnect the power to high profile defaulters such as the offices and residences of Chief Minister, Police Commissioner and Collector

For the common man who doesn’t pay his electricity bill, it is inevitable that his power supply will be cut. But this could turn out to be a novel experience for the city’s top authorities think the Chief Minister, Collector or even the Police Commissioner who will be left in the dark if the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking committee has its way.

Amongst BEST’s high profile defaulters is the city collector’s office, housed in the Old Custom House in Fort, which owes nearly Rs 40 lakh to BEST for 150 months’ power supply
Amongst BEST’s high profile defaulters is the city collector’s office, housed in the Old Custom House in Fort, which owes nearly Rs 40 lakh to BEST for 150 months’ power supply

The undertaking is yet to recover over Rs 53 crore from defaulters including several high profile government agencies, some of which have not paid their bills in over 12 years. mid-day had reported about this issue on April 17 (‘Pending electric bill for CM’s bungalow: Rs 14 lakh’) .

If these defaulters’ high profile had prevented action being taken before, it could now be the very thing that lands them in trouble. The BEST committee now wants to disconnect their electricity connections to send a message to all defaulters.

mid-day’s report on April 17
mid-day’s report on April 17

“The BEST administration should disconnect power supply of high profile people who haven’t paid bills for a longer time frame,” said Shrikant Kavtankar, stand-in chairman (in place of A Dudhvadkar), BEST Committee.

During a recent committee meeting, the members who are all from different political parties unanimously agreed that the bill payment issue should be looked into, especially since the electricity department is a more profitable venture of BEST and cross subsidises the losses incurred by the transport wing.

All these defaulters are those whose bills run over Rs 10 lakh. The maximum amount pending is Rs 1.87 crore, from the Public Works Department (PWD) which hasn’t paid up in more than 12 years (150 months, as per mid-April data). The PWD is also supposed to pay the bill for the CM’s bungalow, amounting to Rs 14 lakh.

Even the Collectorate owes nearly Rs 40 lakh to BEST for 150 months’ power supply. Similarly, the Police Commissionerate is yet to pay tens of lakhs for the several accounts it holds for each of its offices. There are other offices of the Deputy Commissioner of Police and other police stations that have defaulted as well.

“When a common man doesn’t pay the electricity bill then the authorities take action by either fining them heavily or disconnecting their electricity line,” said Ravi Raja, BEST committee member. An official highly placed in the BEST administration said that a meeting would be held to discuss the future course of action, but because of the high profile cases, nothing could be said before then.

Power-ful defaulters
Apart from private developers, residential and commercial outlets that haven’t paid their bills, some of the government agencies that owe BEST are:
>> CM’s residence
>> Different offices of Mantralaya
>> PWD office
>> Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA)
>> Police Commissioner’s office
>> Collector’s office (South Mumbai)
>> BMC ward offices

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