An Honest Man`S Electric Bill
If you are a power consumer and your usage is low, you are a thief – Power Department`s verdict;honesty electrocuted!
SHOCK BY AHSAAN ABDULLAH
Truth stings. And here is one such truth; In Kashmir if you happen to be honest, you are in trouble. Our Power Development Department brilliantly proves this truth – at least every time they send me my electric bill.
I am a metered consumer. Our area is fully metered. My electric meter runs without a glitch. Even If there was an iota of doubt about it, it has already been laid to rest; the meter having been placed and replaced, not once but many times over; the most recent replacement coming just a month ago. I am a responsible citizen and dare I say an honest consumer. The world has been trumpeting about energy conservation and I too in a bid to conserve energy, and my pocket as well, have tried using as little electricity as possible. However, the way I get rewarded for it, really tears open my heart.
Every month I wait with wary eyes for the electric bill to arrive. I impatiently scan it; first to find the units I have consumed and next for the small field that reads FLAT. The moment the flat field reads ‘Y’, my tongue sticks out and my heart skips a beat. I know I have been duped once again. It means my usage has dropped below a predetermined level. I am charged a flat amount which far exceeds the amount applicable on my actual usage.
Last month my usage dropped to 112 units. I was happy for I had managed to use little energy. However, all the joy went fizzing out the moment I realized I had been billed at a flat rate! I did my maths. At flat rate I was being demanded an amount of Rs. 353; my bill according to my meter reading– for 112 units – should have been a mere Rs. 170. A glaring difference of Rs. 183. I did not believe my eyes. I was being overcharged by an amount that even exceeded my actual bill itself.
My usage usually hovers around the same mark, except for the winter months when heating contraptions take over. This means that for the rest of the year I am charged in excess. It was an epiphany that sent my sleep for a spin. As I tossed and turned in the bed that night, I decided it was time to do something about it. First thing in the morning, I gathered my bills and past receipts and headed for the PDD office supposed to be in charge of our billing.
A Junior Engineer sitting in front of a computer greeted me. I tossed my bills on his table and described my conundrum. He raised his eyebrows and pointed towards the door. For a moment I thought he was asking me to leave. “Assistant Executive Engineer; talk to him please,” he said.
The Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) greeted me with a smile, asked me to sit down and offered me water, as if knowing in advance that I needed it. “Why am I being billed at a flat rate if I am a metered consumer?” I asked. He smiled and calmly replied, “You must be stealing power that is why your usage is low. Most people in your area do that.” Must-be-stealing were the words he used. I was shell shocked. I checked my forehead to see if there was a stamp that made him so sure. There wasn`t. How could he just assume that? My usage was low, so the department had taken the liberty to assume that I was a thief! My inflated bill was being slapped at me on account of my ‘theft’. I felt insulted, greatly so. The AEE sensing this retorted with a mellowed down version. “Look sir, most people resort to hooking in the evening and nights. There is no way for us to constantly keep a watch. Obviously their usage drops. It is one way for us to know they have been hooking. So once any consumer`s usage drops we book him at flat rate. I know sometimes an honest consumer gets caught in this web as well but let us say he is a collateral damage. It is a policy decision and our Executive Engineer has directed us to stick to it.”
By now I was totally taken over by disbelief. Throughout my life I had not been dished with a more upside down logic. No benefit of doubt whatsoever. If you are a power consumer and your usage is low, you are a thief – Power Department`s verdict. Forget about safeguarding the interests of honest consumers, the department is penalizing them for it. Try beating that.
The next day I somehow laid my hands on the Supply Code document, issued by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission of J&K and the Tariff recknor. The documents govern the way JKPDD must operate. Billing rules, tariff rules, connection rules, everything is clearly explained. Nowhere could I find a direction that allows the utility to bill a metered consumer on flat rate. I wonder how PDD takes that liberty then.
Nearly a month passes. The electric bill arrives once again. I warily hold it in my hand. The usage says 125 units. The flat field once again reads ‘Yes’. The bill once again stands inflated!
The author is an engineer and can be reached at email@example.com
Lastupdate on : Fri, 21 Oct 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 21 Oct 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 22 Oct 2011 00:00:00 IST
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