Pending EB arrears of dist's panchayat villages swells to Rs 50 cr: Tangedco

According to Tangedco, power supply to rural segments including village and town panchayats falls under commercial category.
Image for representational purpose.
Image for representational purpose.(Photo | Express)

MADURAI: Pending electricity bills (EB) of the district's village panchayats in the last last five years has crossed Rs 50 crore, said senior Tangedco officials, upset over the mounting arrears. Officials at the rural level, however, have attributed the setback to the delay in fund allocation and issues with collecting taxes in villages.

According to Tangedco, power supply to rural segments including village and town panchayats falls under commercial category. This comprises supply to over head tanks (OHT), street lights, community halls, and other services. The electricity bills of these local bodies, the public utility said, has not been completely paid since March 2019 and has crossed Rs 50 crore.

Elaborating on the problems faced by village panchayats in the district, Chinnapatti panchayat president P Sakthi Mayil told TNIE, "While our village has never had pending bills, including electricity or tax, many panchayat villages in the district are faced with several financial problems. Tax collection in some villages is a task, which affects the financial balance of the panchayat village. Moreover, delay in fund allocation by the panchayat and rural development department diminishes the panchayat's power to clear arrears, which start piling up. Since Tangedco is a public utility, it does not disconnect supply, even though the arrears keep swelling."

A top Tangedco official said, "The average electricity bill of ever village panchayat runs into several lakhs. The monthly average of power bills from all panchayat villages in Madurai ranges between Rs 5 and Rs 7 crore. While some village panchayats pay part of the bill, the rest is treated as arrears. Since electricity is considered as an essential service, Tangedco cannot disconnect supply over non-payment of bills."

Confirming the pending arrears, Assistant Director (Panchayats), Madurai, K Aravind said, "We distribute financial aid and funding, apart from offering advice to each village panchayat in the district. While consumption of power remains the same, demand of water has been ever increasing. In the past four years, the population has jumped from 17 lakh to 20 lakh, which has proportionately increased the demand and consumption of water. Since we cannot depend on the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board (TWAD), we have to dig borewells to get groundwater. Borewells are operated for six to 10 hours. This increases the power bills, which in turn drains the revenues. We are having to pay the arrears to Tangedco in installments. Despite this, the arrears have touched Rs 50 crore. Senior official of the rural development and panchayat raj department and TANGEDCO are aware about the issue. "

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