The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tenants raise power-restore penalty

The tenants of 8, Madan Street are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea — namely the CESC, which cut off their power supply on May 20, and the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), which happens to be their landlord and which claims it was unaware of “unmetered consumption”, estimated at Rs 151,653, as alleged in a CESC letter to tenants, despite the constant presence of an LIC watchman on the premises.

Without fans, water or light, most tenants, save a lone Chinese woman, have been forced to seek shelter elsewhere.

Bowing to pressure, all the 24 tenants, including shopkeepers and residents, have decided to pay Rs 5,000 each to the CESC, which adds up to a tidy Rs 90,000. Though the tenants refused comment to avoid further complications, this is, reportedly, the latest sum that the CESC has demanded of them.

The only tenant who has refused to take it lying down is Gopal Chandra Das, who has already moved court.

Shantanu Chatterjee, executive director, CESC, alleges that the illegal meter in the building was for “common benefit”. In other words, power was drawn illegally from it to provide certain amenities enjoyed by all tenants, such as water supply. The building has 23 registered consumers and the CESC is ready to admit that none of them has defaulted in paying its bills. Chatterjee alleges that the recreation club for LIC employees on the top floor of the building, too, could be the culprit, but nobody has been nailed. Yet, the CESC snapped the power connection to the entire building, without notice, though all 23 meters are under lock and key, and the LIC watchman is there all the time. The letter came later.

The regional manager, estates and office services, Eastern Region, of the LIC, says the CESC letter to tenants, directing them to cough up Rs 151,653 if they wanted supply to be restored, reached them only on Thursday, that, too, after the LIC threatened legal action against the power utility.

Another LIC officer of the same department said from Day One, they have been trying to convince the CESC to restore power for a few minutes to ascertain who had installed the illegal meter but the CESC has refused to do so. So how does one investigate' The illegal meter “does not appear” to be new and everything is based on “surmises and guesses.” Three meters cater to common areas at 8, Madan Street. “The LIC is paying crores every month and what is the logic of one faulty meter'” asked the LIC spokesperson.

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