Enraged by the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s u-turn over the waiving off of the outsize electricity bills generated in the months following the nationwide lockdown induced by the coronavirus crisis, the BJP on Friday staged a massive demonstration in Mumbai’s Bandra. The protest against the Thackeray government came on the heels of the Maharashtra power minister Nitin Raut’s statement this Tuesday, stating that there will be no waiver as promised before and the consumers will have to foot the electricity bills on their own.
Protest by @bjp4mumbai against unjustified hike in electricity prices.— Suresh Nakhua (सुरेश नाखुआ) (@SureshNakhua) November 20, 2020
When other govt cam provide relief to consumers, SIN govt of Maharashtra not only increases the prices but also goes back on its word to provide relief. pic.twitter.com/N5xo1qpYKn
In the protests, the BJP has accused the state government of being indifferent to the miseries of the residents of the state amidst the resurgent pandemic and highlighted how the BJP ruled state governments in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat granted almost 50 per cent relief in the electricity bills of the consumers in their states.
“This government is known for lying through its teeth. At the start of the pandemic, they boasted of waiving off school fees. However, they welshed on their promise. They later announced that college fees will be reduced by 50 per cent. But they reneged on that promise as well. Subsequently, they said they will waive off electricity bills but failed on this front as well. When we ask them to grant us relief, they claim they are bankrupt,” a BJP leader said while accusing the Maharashtra government of indulging in unneeded expenses such as the purchase of premium cars during the pandemic.
Maharashtra power minister goes back on his promise of waiving off excess electricity bills
Earlier this week, Maharashtra Power Minister Nitin Raut dashed the hopes of thousands of state residents by claiming that the state government will not waive off the electricity bills and that the consumers will have to bear the costs themselves.
“The electricity department is facing a loss of Rs 69,000 crore. We had demanded financial assistance from the Union government. However, they declined the help. If the electricity bills are accurate the consumers will have to pay them,” Raut said.
This declaration by Raut came in stark contrast with his earlier announcement when he had claimed that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government would waive off the excessive bills after Diwali. Interestingly, Raut was also mulling over providing 100 units of electricity at no cost to the domestic consumers before the lockdown came into force in March. Besides Raut, the State finance minister Ajit Pawar had also asserted that the government will address the concerns regarding the excessive electricity bills.
Consumers register their protest against excessive electricity bills
Earlier this year, after the first few months of coronavirus lockdown, social media websites were awash with a torrent of complaints from consumers, including celebrities, about inflated power bills for the first few months of the lockdown. Complaints alleged that power distribution companies were dishing out outrageous bills that did not jibe with the actual electricity usage. Several of the Bollywood celebrities such as Asha Bhosale, Taapsee Pannu, Dino Morea, Pulkit Samrat and many others had expressed their shock over the excessive electricity bills that they had received.
The power distribution companies such as Adani Electricity had then issued multiple press releases to explain why the electricity bills were so high. A spokesperson for Adani Electricity had reasoned that the high consumption in lockdown was because people had worked from home during the summer months.
A spokesperson for Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) had then said, “In case of any fault in meter readings and calculations from our side, we will rectify the electricity bill and the amount will get adjusted in the next month’s bill.”
Other states had adopted different methods to derive the electricity bills during lockdown months. While some of the states had waived off the bills during the lockdown period, others who had taken the average consumption of the users to arrive at the charges had faced similar complaints of inflated electricity bills from consumers.
In fact, Shiv Sainiks themselves were outraged with the outsize electricity bills and had threatened to stage a protest against the Uddhav Thackeray government by donning briefs and vests and visiting the electricity office in Vasai.