Mumbaikars observe 30 min blackout to protest against 'crippling' electricity bills

Updated: Jul 03, 2020, 07:31 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Citizens switch off power in 30-minute symbolic protest against crippling electricity bills

A building with some flats observing blackout in Kirol, Vidyavihar
A building with some flats observing blackout in Kirol, Vidyavihar

FOR citizens who have been thrown into a tizzy with what they claim are high electricity bills, there seems to be no way out. Between 8 pm to 8.30 pm on Thursday, some groups of citizens called for a blackout, switching off all electrical appliances and lights as a silent statement against what they call "crippling" electricity bills, during the pandemic.

Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Mumbai's Watchdog Foundation, which is leading this movement, said, "It is a symbolic gesture to register our protest with electricity services. Ideally, we would have taken to the streets and held a demonstration outside the service provider's office. But because of restricted mobility, one way to showcase the larger sentiment sweeping across the city is this."

Pimenta added that he "was taken aback when I got a bill for Rs 29,000 for May and June for my home." He usually gets a bill of approximately R10,000 a month during summer and lower in the other months. "I asked Adani Electricity how it had arrived at such a figure without noting the meter reading. Look at our previous bills and charge accordingly," said the Marol resident.

A priests’ residence in  Gorai and a building in Marol join the lights out protest on ThursdayA priests' residence in Gorai and a building in Marol join the lights out protest on Thursday

The foundation, Pimenta said, had a show of solidarity as soon as the blackout initiative was announced on social media two days ago. "Hours before the self-imposed blackout time, I got calls from citizens, one from a Powai doctor, proving that this is an issue that is resonating across the spectrum," he said.

Satyagraha

Dolphy D'Souza, spokesperson, Bombay Catholic Sabha (BCS), said the organisation supports the Watchdog Foundation. "Authorities may think that we will be unable to lodge a protest amidst the lockdown. But we can come up with inventive and effective ways to do so; this is one of them. I would consider this a satyagraha of sorts, and history has shown us that there is great power in the satyagraha movement. We want the power regulatory companies to maintain status quo, rather than simply issuing statements and directives to service providers," he finished.

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Dadar resident Ravi Singh said, "I would like some explanation as to why per unit price is escalating." Tejas Bhavsar from Vile Parle said that he had got a bill of Rs 4,790 for June while his average bill is around R900. "I simply cannot understand how it can escalate like this," he said.

'Bills on lower side'

An Adani Electricity Mumbai Limited (AEML) spokesperson said, "We have re-started physical meter reading which was temporarily halted since March because of COVID-19. Bills were generated on the lower side of an average of preceding three months — December, January and February. Actual consumption in the months of April, May and June is comparatively high due to seasonal impact (summer) and increased usage (the advent of lockdown/work-from-home). Now the consumers will start receiving bills based on their actual consumption with appropriate tariff slab benefits. The bill amount for the past period shall be accounted as per the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) guidelines."

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