Mumbai: Maharashtra government now says no to electricity bill discount

Updated: 18 November, 2020 10:06 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Two weeks after making tall promise for Diwali, energy minister now says government is cash-strapped

The hopes of power consumers for free electricity units and subsidy on inflated bills have been dashed with Energy Minister Nitin Raut saying the government is financially unable to extend the benefits. Raut's U-turn comes a fortnight after he promised that a decision would be made by Diwali.

While the minister said the state-run companies were also consumers and needed to pay their monthly bills, the Opposition blamed the indecision on a tussle between the three constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi. It said the Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party didn't want the Congress to take credit for the sop, if given.

The minister had promised relaxation in the inflated electricity bills that consumers received post lockdown. On Tuesday, he said the companies have given all necessary assistance and discounts to the consumers. He asked people to pay the full amount as per readings in the bills and approach the grievance redressal mechanism if the bills were deemed incorrect.

BJP leaders during a press conference on inflated electricity bills in July this year. Pic/Ashish Raje
BJP leaders during a press conference on inflated electricity bills in July this year. Pic/Ashish Raje

"Mahavitaran (state-owned distribution company) is also a consumer as it buys electricity from other sources. The generation company gets paid for supplying electricity to the distributor. The transmission company also gets paid for the services it renders. The financial cycle depends on the bills paid by the end consumers. Currently, the distribution company suffers a loss of R69,000 crore and it cannot take further loans," he said, adding that the Centre also did not help the state.

Besides relaxation in inflated bills, Raut had also moved a proposal for supplying 100 units per consumer free of charge. He had said a green signal from CM Uddhav Thackeray and deputy Chief Minister (also the finance minister) Ajit Pawar was awaited. However, Pawar had reservations over giving compensation to the companies, especially the private ones, that were accused of overcharging consumers.

Sources said the state couldn't be selective between the corporate, municipal and state-run companies if it were to extend the benefit even if it had the money to afford such a subsidy for inflated bills and compensation cost to be reimbursed for a free supply of 100 units.

Former energy minister and BJP leader Chandrashekhar Bawankule said the CM and deputy CM were not in tune with Raut, a Congressman. "Dr Raut's proposal has not been approved because every party in the MVA government wanted credit for the benefit, if given. The sop isn't possible without making a provision of R7,000-8,000 crore. The government had promised to waive off 1,200 units that were billed for the lockdown months. The BJP will organise protests if the consumers are not given relief," he said.

No. of free units per consumer that was proposed

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First Published: 18 November, 2020 05:50 IST

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