The upcoming general elections seem to be driving politicians to do everything in their power to sway the common man. On cue is Sanjay Nirupam, Member of Parliament, who went on an indefinite hunger strike from Thursday morning, outside Reliance Infrastructure (RIL) office at Kandivli (W).
Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam, who is on a hunger strike, amidst his supporters outside the Reliance office in Kandivli. His supporters held placards demanding a reduction in electricity tariff. Pics/Nimesh Dave
The hunger strike began at 11 am to protest the inflated electricity bills and tariffs charged by the company. Nirupam, along with his supporters set up a huge pandal right outside the distributor’s office, decelerating vehicular movement on the road.
Although the pandal was barricaded, Nirupam’s party supporters and local MLAs soon joined in large numbers. Chairs had to be placed on both sides of the stage to accommodate them. Within a few minutes, vehicles increased and motorists were caught in the traffic congestion.
The RIL office in Kandivli is located on an arterial road that not only bypasses through the Swami Vivekanand Road, but also connects Kandivli station and the road over bridge that connects Kandivli (east). The pandal covered the entire footpath and half of the road, originally of only two-lane width (total width is approximately 6 feet). Amidst the chaos, buses carrying Shiv Sainiks were shouting anti-Nirupam slogans that added to the tension.
Nirupam’s hunger strike is on the belief that Reliance Infrastructure is overcharging their 24-lakh consumers in the suburbs. “We understand that the rates are decided by the regulator, however, there is no need for Reliance to quote such high tariffs in the first place,” said Nirupam. Their demand also includes a reduction on fixed charges, which starts from Rs 30 and increases as per the units consumed.
Sources in Reliance claim they have already responded to the issues raised by Nirupam. “Determining the tariffs is the prerogative of Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) and we also conduct public hearings for the same,” said an official from Reliance. Presently, Mumbai pays close to Rs 2,500 crore each year to the state as taxes on electricity.