| A transformer in Motihari. Picture by Ajit Kumar Verma |
Power consumers and contractors in East Champaran are caught in a wrangle over faulty bills and alleged non-payment to the latter for the past six months.
The North Bihar Power Distribution Company Limited (NBPDCL) was formed in June 2013. For the first month it paid remuneration to the 25 contract employees under whom around a hundred meter readers and bill distributors work across the district.
Thereafter, the payment stopped, affecting the employees’ willingness to work.
The work of bill distribution is regular but in most areas, meters are not read regularly and an average of a few bills is calculated and sent late to consumers, forcing them to pay dues at one go.
The contract employees work for North Bihar Power Distribution Company Limited but actually work under the local arm of the electricity department, a part of the old set-up. The officials, who have been made overall in-charge at the district-level, disburse payments among contract employees.
“Instead of making timely payments, the officials prefer to leave the bulk amount in bank accounts and only in case of protests by contract employees, the payments are arranged from under different heads of maintenance or funds lying unused. Maximum amount of maintenance funds usually remain unused in the department. Even for replacement of a damaged transformer and its transportation from one place to the other, funds are collected from consumers of that particular area,” a source said.
Denying the charges, North Bihar Power Distribution Company Limited executive engineer P.K. Jha told The Telegraph: “There is no funds crunch for paying contractors and workers working under them. The performance of many of them is unsatisfactory. Their payment bills for October and November were received only a few days ago and would be cleared soon.”
The issue regarding the pending payment of contract employees was raised on January 11 at the conference hall of the collectorate at a meeting between district magistrate Shridhar C. and representatives of the contract employees.
But executive engineer P.K. Jha and some other officials of the department restrained the representatives from taking the matter to the district magistrate by assuring them that their dues would be cleared shortly.
The district magistrate had earlier wanted to know from the contract employees about their payments and any possible complaints about that.
The district magistrate could not be contacted for comment.
When contacted, North Bihar Power Distribution Company Limited managing director Sanjay Kumar Agrawal said: “Allotment of funds for payment to meter readers and bill distributors is regularly sent to the districts every month. There can be no reason for delay. But I would surely look into the matter.”