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Power bill blame on Morcha

Darjeeling, April 1: The Trinamul Congress today alleged that the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leadership had told the state government the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) could collect electricity dues from commercial establishments.

The Morcha has denied the charge, saying the Trinamul was trying to “create an issue” out of nothing.

The Morcha pointed out that chief minister Mamata Banerjee had already said publicly that the power dues would be waived.

Although WBSEDCL served notices on business establishments in the hills two months ago seeking payment of dues, no power connection has been cut yet.

Binny Sharma, spokesman for Trinamul (hills), said: “It is the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha which had told the state government in October-November last year that it could collect outstanding electricity dues from commercial establishments. Out of the Rs 90 crore electricity dues, Rs 35 crore has been accrued by commercial establishments.”

The remaining Rs 55 crore is the outstanding amount from domestic consumers.

The Morcha had as part of its “non-cooperation movement” from April 2008 till July 2011 for statehood asked the hill people to stop paying electricity and telephone bills.

Sharma said: “The Morcha leadership had told the state government that since commercial establishments like hotels had charged their customers and had collected the electricity charges, hence they would pay their dues.”

In the last few months, commercial establishments across the hills were served notices by WBSEDCL to clear their dues or else their lines would be disconnected.

Some of the hotels have dues to the tune of Rs 10 lakh.

Mamata, while addressing a public meeting at Gorubathan, the border town between the hills and plains had on March 26, said the outstanding electricity bills had been waived.

Sharma said: “The Trinamul leadership will, however, not make the people of the hills suffer for a decision of one political party. If needed, we will start an agitation and ensure that the common people are not taxed and that not a single line is disconnected until the issue is solved legally.”

The Trinamul leader said the Morcha leadership should pay the dues from their own pockets.

“The call (of non-cooperation) was theirs and it is their duty to clear the dues. They could also have cleared it from the GTA funds but then they cannot get commissions like they get from awarding contracts to contractors,” Sharma said.

Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha, denied the charge.

“The allegations are false. They are just trying to create an issue. Their leader, Mamata Banerjee, has already said that electricity dues have been waived so this is not an issue.”