Tamluk, Aug. 23: The state power distribution company has disconnected the electricity supply to a CPM-controlled gram panchayat in Kolaghat for non-payment of dues but such a step has not been taken against the 20-odd Trinamul-led rural bodies in the neighbourhood that have also defaulted on payments.
Sources in the East Midnapore administration said the power bills of the 26 panchayats could not be paid on time as the terms of the previous rural boards had expired before the June-July-August billing cycle and there were no pradhans to sign the cheques.
Sources said the administrators the government appointed to run the panchayats after their terms had ended did not designate the responsibility of signing cheques in the absence of the pradhans.
Sources in the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) said disconnection notices were served on a number of gram panchayats by the middle of July because of non-payment of dues. The power line to the CPM controlled Santipur-I gram panchayat was disconnected on August 13.
The CPM pradhan of the Santipur-I gram panchayat, Noor Nehar Begum, said when the office reopened on August 17 for the election of the pradhan and the deputy pradhan, there was no power.
“We checked and found out that the electricity line has been snapped because of non-payment of dues to the tune of about Rs 5,500. We suspect a conspiracy. We believe that the power line was snapped by the WBSEDCL following pressure from the ruling Trinamul,” the CPM panchayat pradhan said.
A district committee member of the CPM, Amit Das, said: “We snatched the panchayat from Trinamul in last month’s panchayat polls. The defeat did not go down well with Trinamul. So the party hatched a conspiracy and created pressure on WBSEDCL employees to disconnect our power supply. The employees of the Santipur-I panchayat had sought some time from the power utility but the company did not listen.”
WBSEDCL sources in East Midnapore said that when employees went to disconnect power supply to the panchayats this month, some elected members and employees of the rural bodies requested them not to do so.
Damodar Manna, an executive assistant of the Kumarchak gram panchayat in Nandakumar, one of the 26 rural bodies that received the disconnection notice, said: “We were supposed to pay Rs 15,000 by July 16. But we could not pay and received a disconnection notice. When WBSEDCL employees came to disconnect our power line, wE requested them to give us more time. They accepted the request.”
In a Congress-controlled gram panchayat in Kolaghat’s Sagarbar, the newly elected pradhan requested the elected members and employees to pay the bill of Rs 4,000 from their pockets, adding that the amount would be reimbursed later. “We avoided disconnection in this way,” said Surajit Maity, the Congress pradhan.
The divisional engineer of WBSEDCL, Srinivas Raut, said: “We had not received any order from the government that there would be payment problems at gram panchayats. If we had the information, we would have extended the due date.”
Asked why the power connection to the CPM-controlled gram panchayat was snapped, Raut said: “I am not aware of any political pressure on our employees.”