The Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL), a state run utility firm, seems to have two sets of norms for the general public and policy makers as payment of bills is concerned. In a reply to an RTI application the MSEDCL itself revealed that elected corporators Rajendra Endal and Dr Yashwant Dhende collectively owe Rs 2.86 lakh to the utility company and that they have failed to clear the amount in the past four years.
Ironically, the utility company has not taken any action against the defaulters so far. City-based RTI activist Vivek Velankar, who asked for bill details of the two corporators through an RTI plea, said the very MSEDCL officials, who would not listen to any excuses of a common man regarding non-payment of bills and disconnect their connection within six months, have been dragging their feet over snapping the power supply and taking any action against the defaulters for the past four years. "This is surprising. It goes to establish that the power officials literally become powerless while dealing with policy makers and influential people," he said.
Rajendra Endal of Survey No 10, Jai Prakash Nagar, Yerawada, has a pending bill of Rs 2.11,680, while Dr Siddharth Dhende of Survey No 191 Nagpur Chawal, Yerawada, of has a pendancy of Rs 75,010. Dhende's pending bill is in the name of his brother Rajendra. The RTI activist added that a total billing of Rs 2, 86, 690 is residential -- not commercial or industrial.
"Why the MSEDCL is not taking any action against them?" he asked. Supporting Velankar's stand, another RTI activist Vishwas Sahastrabuddhe said, "The utility company should immediately disconnect the defaulter corporators' connections. We have also asked for details of electricity bills of all the eight MLAs in Pune and one MP to check whether these law makers are following norms."
Corporator Yashwant Dhende said that the MSEDCL has misguided the RTI applicant. The pending amount was not on his name, but his younger brother. The bill was exorbitant as the meter was not working properly. "We are trying to settle the issue. My brother has already made some part payment." Dhende also charged that there were many cases of wrong billing for the hutment dwellers at Yerawada. "I am taking up their issues too," he said.
Going soft on powerful? City-based activists have also filed an RTI
plea asking for bill details of eight MLAs and lone MP of the city to check
whether they utility bills on time. File pic
Endal, the other PMC corporator, was not available for comment. Siddharth Nagtilak, Chief Engineer, MSEDCL, said, "I am aware of both the cases. I had taken up the matter with Dhende only after he made the part payment. There shall not be any differentiation between ordinary citizens and elected members. We will be charging 18 per cent fine on the total billing on both the cases."