Kerala Residents Claim High Power Tariffs During Lockdown, Congress Calls For Protests

Kerala Residents Claim High Power Tariffs During Lockdown, Congress Calls For Protests

People have complaint high electricity bills during the lockdown in Kerala. (Representational)

Thiruvananthapuram:

The high electricity bills during the lockdown are at the centre of a political controversy in Kerala, with complaints of higher tariffs even for the vacant houses and buildings across the state.

The Congress-led UDF has called for switching off lights at 9 pm tonight for three minutes to protest against the bills.

Ramesh Chennithala, leader of Opposition in Kerala Assembly, said that even owners of vacant houses have been handed over exorbitant bills.

“Everybody knows that people are suffering because of lockdown – whether it be salaried people, migrant workers, or daily wagers. Even owners of houses – which are lying vacant – have been handed over exorbitant bills. This is not fair,” said Ramesh Chennithala.

BJP leader and Union Minister V Muraleedharan has asked the government to not to charge higher bills from people.

“#KSEB is going crazy like the Govt of Kerala led by @vijayanpinarayi. Put an end to unreasonable & exorbitant bills immediately. @CMOKerala Stop bleeding people to fill your exchequers. @JPNadda @BJP4India @BJP4Keralam @PIB_India,” Mr Muraleedharan had tweeted on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, many consumers have complained against the higher bills, saying that even the vacant units are being charged unusually high.

“My in-laws live abroad. Their house is locked in Ernakulam. Since December, they have been paying an average bill of around 350 rupees. This time they have been handed over an electricity bill of R 2,863. I have no idea how could they be served such a high bill despite no one living in the house anyway?” says George Thomas, who is a corporate trainer and Director of Friends Playschool & Kindergarten in Thiruvananthapuram.

“Our school remained closed since 10th March, but we have a bill of 3776 rupees to pay, including arrears of 1,889 rupees. I have no idea when schools have been shut, how have we got billed so much for energy consumption?” Mr Thomas said further.

The Kerala State Electricity Board – that provides electricity for 1.3 crore consumers in Kerala – has denied allegations of arbitrary billing.

NS Pillai, Chairman of Kerala State Electricity Board, told NDTV that the bills have been charged on an average basis since their officials couldn’t go to for meter reading during the lockdown.

He also said that any extra charges over the actual dues will be adjusted in future.

“We have 90 lakh domestic consumers and have taken an average of three of their months bill to bill them for the lockdown period. Our rates are progressive. Higher the units of consumption, much higher the tariff,” Mr Pillai said.

“Especially for over 250 units consumption, the rates spiral with non-telescopic tariffs. And consumption for domestic users has been very high during lockdown period. It may be hard for them, but the billing is correct in most cases,” he added.

Mr Pillai said that average billing has been followed in case of the vacant houses and closed businesses.

“However, the bills have been very high in cases where people are out of Kerala and their houses in the state have not been occupied during the lockdown period and also in case of non-domestic consumers – who have had to keep their outlets shut during the lockdown. But we have taken ad hoc payments from them, based on their previous average,” he said.

“We are an independent entity and have to pay our workers who have been ensuring round the clock electricity, and also for the electricity that we have to import. And since our employees could not do the meter readings, we have billed them on their previous three-month average,” he said.

“If during the actual reading, the amount received from them is higher than what’s due, the balance amount shall be adjusted to the next billing cycles. No extra money will be received by KSEB,” NS Pillai added.

Kerala imports around 70% of its electricity from outside the state and has seen an average of 30% increase in electricity consumption during the lockdown period.

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