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Bill shock for 40 minus electricity

- Krishnagar villagers receive Rs 114 bill without connection for one year; officials say it’s a mistake
An electric pole in Tripurapara without wires. Picture by Saurav Bhattacharya

Krishnagar, Sept. 11: Around 40 fishermen at a Krishnagar village who are yet to see electricity in their homes got a shock today on being given bills by the state electricity board.

“We would have been happy to get the bills as had we electric connections. We have been waiting for connections ever since we applied for it last year under the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana meant for people under the BPL category,” said Sanatan Halder, an elderly fisherman of Tripurapara in Tehatta.

Villagers said all 40 of the fisherfolk have received bills of Rs 114 from the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) for August, with the instruction to pay by the tenth of this month.

According to Halder, electric poles in their village were put up in March this year and meters were also installed in each house. “But no connections were provided,” he alleged.

The 200-odd villagers, Halder added, had on March 16 submitted a memorandum to the subdivisional officer of Tehatta, the divisional engineer, and the local station superintendent of WBSEDCL, requesting them to ensure electric supply to their houses. But to no avail.

The aggrieved villagers in the afternoon went to the WBSECL station superintendent’s office in Tehatta, seeking an explanation.

Jayanta Biswas, the station superintendent of WBSEDCL, however, had no proper explanation and blamed the project manager’s office for the “mistake”. “It is true that provisional bills were sent to the fishermen without taking their meter readings. It was done on the basis of a report from the project manager’s office confirming connection to their houses,” Biswas said.

Biswas said he would seek an explanation from the project manager’s office. The apologetic station superintendent added he had told the villagers that they need not pay any money and that they should return the bills to his office .

Project manager Tapas Das said in Krishnagar that he would have to “study the whole thing before making any comment”.

Sources at the WBSEDCL office in Krishnagar said the officials were under pressure to achieve targets of rural electrification after chief minister Mamata Banerjee, at an administrative meeting held recently there, ordered them to hasten up work. “This could have caused the mistake,” an official said.

“The officials were told to complete the project well ahead of the three-tier panchayat elections next year,” he added.

Subdivisional officer of Tehatta, Sudipto Bhattacharjee, said: “It is quite unfortunate on the part of the WBSEDCL to have committed such a blunder. I will ask the WBSEDCL authorities to identify the official responsible for such harassment of the poor people.”