The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Heat & darkness drive aged, ailing to despair

In a clear case of the CESC imposing a collective fine, it disconnected without notice the power supply to all AC consumers of the building at 8, Madan Street, that belongs to the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) on Tuesday afternoon, for alleged “pilferage of electricity” for 295 days. There are 24 meters in the building and the tenants claim they are not defaulters.

Without any power since then, at least three old and seriously ill people have, perforce, left the building. It is impossible to live there in the heat and darkness. One of them, an old Parsi woman, has moved into the home of a relative. The second, Gopal Chandra Das, a heart patient, has shifted to a hotel close by. The third, a 78-year-old Chinese woman, who is blind, highly diabetic and frail and has remained house-bound for some time, was forced to seek admission in a nursing home. She is entirely dependent on her two maids. Her daughter, who lives in Delhi, had to arrange for her admission with the help of friends.

Only an old Chinese woman, who lives alone in her large dishevelled flat, is left behind. Unable to speak English, she could not spell out her name. However, her letter-box bore the names C.H. Wong, C.M. Wong. She now sits most of the time outside the house, on the pavement, fanning herself in desperation, only to disappear into the darkness of her first-floor flat as dusk descends.

The ground floor houses shops that mostly sell electronic goods. The terrace boasts a fully-equipped gym belonging to the Life Insurance Employees Sports Club. Till about six months ago, an office of the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works used to occupy part of the top floor. Tenants point fingers at the firm, which has now shifted to Hindusthan Building.

The CESC, in a letter to the tenants of the building, dated May 20, wrote: “…during an inspection of the service installation, catering to the above supply on 20-05-03, the following were observed: Direct Connection Found From Cutouts Bypassing the Meter. This shows that you had gained unauthorised access to the metering system… In view of the aforesaid, your supply was disconnected on 20/05/03… An FIR has also been lodged with the Bowbazar police station…the unmetered consumption charges are estimated to Rs 151,653… Payment of such charges…would be necessary for restoration of supply.”

The LIC pointed out to the power utility on May 20 that no “proper notification” was made before the disconnection. Gopal Das’ advocate, in a letter to the CESC, dated May 23, threatened legal action. A CESC spokesperson said: “CESC is not being vindictive.”

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