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Image shock for Bengal power board

Calcutta, Aug. 26: The West Bengal State Electricity Board (WBSEB) still suffers from a poor image as far as the quality of the power supplied by it is concerned, according to a study commissioned by the Japan Bank of International Co-operation (JBIC).

JBIC, the largest single investor in the power sector in the state, entrusted Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide to conduct a case study on public perception regarding the WBSEB’s activities.

The study is expected to guide the multi-lateral funding agency’s future investments in the state’s power sector. It has made large investments in the transmission and distribution sector in Bengal.

“After going through the study, JBIC will make recommendations on improving the power situation in the state,” WBSEB sources said.

The study reveals that quite a good number of industrial and commercial consumers were not satisfied with the power supply, while 50 per cent of the other consumers were happy with the quality of power supplied by the WBSEB.

The industrial consumers expressed concern over the work culture of the board’s employees. However, they added that they were happy with the transparent way the SEB is now functioning and were willing to pay higher tariffs if services improve.

Quality of power including voltage/frequency fluctuations is still a concern even in urban areas. Power cuts and voltage fluctuations have been seen as stemming from the board’s inefficiency and not due to technical difficulties beyond its control.

Further, the inability to prevent power theft, which is perceived to be one of the major causes of the disruption in power supply, was seen as a major failure of the board. JBIC is particularly interested in this issue since it has invested in the transmission and distribution sector.

The study reveals that faulty billing still remains a problematic area in some pockets.

As far as subsidies were concerned, most consumers were of the opinion that they should be discontinued.

Among urban consumers, the survey showed satisfaction with the improved billing efficiencies.

The study reveals that the WBSEB, in spite of having initiated a number of changes, still has a poor image. While it has become customer oriented to some extent, this has not percolated down to all levels.

“JBIC has already presented the study before state power secretary Kalyan Bagchi and WBSEB chairman G. D. Gautama. Bengal has already initiated power sector reforms and it will take some time to change the entire working of the board. The law passed by the government to curb power theft is a step in this direction,” WBSEB officials said.

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