Mumbai: Sparks fly in Bombay Parsi Punchayet over unpaid electricity bill at sanatorium
Chairman's decision to not pay bill of three buildings of Bhabha Sanatorium irks board members, who feel he shouldn't have made that without consulting them
Bhabha Sanatorium residents lived in the dark for three days. Pic/Atul Kamble
Sparks have flown between board members of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) over non-payment — and subsequent payment — of an outstanding electricity bill of the Bhabha Sanatorium in Bandra, which is managed by BPP. For three days last week, the handful of residents at the Bhabha Sanatorium were plunged into darkness, as the electricity bill for three residential buildings in the complex remained unpaid, because of a decision by Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) chairman Yezdi Desai.
After the three days had elapsed – during which two factions of the BPP board shared some heated and unsavoury e-mails – member Viraf Mehta went ahead and paid off the Rs 62,000-outstanding bill, after which electricity resumed. Mehta argues Desai cannot make unilateral decisions without discussing them with the board first, something even members on Desai's side seem to agree on.
No goonda-gardi, please
Mehta told mid-day, "We charge the people living at Bhabha a subsidized amount for the electricity. Last week, our chairman decided to pay off all other electricity bills of Bhabha except these three residential buildings. Such a move did not have the board's approval; there was no resolution passed to this effect, and he specifically instructed the BPP staff to not pay the bills for these three buildings." Mehta further went on to allege that since there were already a number of court cases existing between Desai and some Bhabha residents, such a move was a strong-arming tactic that is in contempt of court. "It amounts to harassment. We are a charitable trust and cannot indulge in this goonda-gardi," he said.
Mehta further pointed out that when he went to visit the Sanatorium last Tuesday — Monday was the first day the electricity was cut off by Reliance — and saw it without electricity, he went to BPP's office on Wednesday and asked for the electricity bill, only to find out that Desai had taken the original bill home with him. "We have a policy that no trustee can take any material home. He took the original bill back home so that nobody can pay it off, and he could ensure there was no electricity there." On Thursday, the electricity returned to the three buildings after Mehta paid off the Rs 62,000 bill. "I've got stuck in no man's land because in the exchange of e-mails that happened, no decision was made to pay or reimburse [me] for the bill," he said.
Defending his action, Desai said, "For the last so many years, the residents there have not paid any charges or electricity bills, which is why we decided not to pay the bill this time. If they don't pay their electricity bills [to us], which are anyway subsidized, then we won't have funds to pay the entire electricity bill. BPP is facing a cash crunch right now –how long can we go on pumping money into this?"
What will happen from next month onwards? "If they don't pay us, then we won't pay the bill either. I don't need the board's approval to do something good for the trust. As a trustee, I can do it immediately instead of waiting two weeks for the board to meet, as I'm the one handling the finances."