KOCHI: “I never used to get a power bill of around Rs 2,000 till February. I had closed my shop in Kochi on March 24 which was reopened only on May 3. But I got a bill of Rs 4,550. We have only four LED bulbs and three fans in our shop which were not used during the lockdown period,” says Garidas, a PVC pipe dealer at Vazhakkala here.
Sathidevi, a homemaker at Puthen Cruz, says she was slapped with a power bill of Rs 9,800 which was more than double the regular bill of Rs 4,000. A source said KSEB has received more than a lakh complaints about exorbitant power bills.
The state is witnessing seething protests, mostly from domestic consumers who have borne the brunt of the two-month-long lockdown as the KSEB slapped them with astronomical bills. Though KSEB says the bill went up due to high consumption as most people stayed indoors, the consumers are not convinced. Industries and commercial establishments, which form the High Tension and Extra High Tension consumers, could not function during the lockdown.
This led to a steep decline in KSEB’s income and they had to surrender around 10 lakh units of power purchased under agreement from the national power exchange. The board has shifted this burden to the consumers,” said Sunil, an activist. However, the board claimed the billing system cannot be manipulated. “The electricity meter is installed on the consumer’s premises. The allegations are baseless. Power consumption had gone up during the lockdown as people stayed indoors.
The present tariff structure of telescopic billing was introduced in 2011-12 to provide power at subsidised rate for the poor the consumption exceeds tariff slab the tariff will change,” said N S Pillai, chairman, KSEB. To appease the consumers, the board has offered consumers the option of part payments of the billed amount. In an order dated May 30, the board offered to make necessary modifications in the billing software to allow domestic consumers to pay half of the bill amount now and pay the rest in two instalments by December 2020.
Low Tension, High Tension and Extra High Tension consumers have been given the option to pay 25 per cent of the fixed charge now and defer payment of the remaining 75 per cent till December 2020 without interest. “Even those protesting know that consumption went up during lockdown. As it was not possible to take meter reading during lockdown, we prepared the bill for March-April by calculating the average consumption during the past six months.
Though the billing cycle is 60 days it was stretched to 65-70 days due to lockdown restrictions. In some cases, the slab changed due to this delay and we are compensating such consumers. They should urge the government to provide some relaxation in the bill considering the lockdown which affected their livelihood,” said P Kumaran, KSEB director - distribution, IT and HRM.