Power bill shock 'kills' man
Bhagalpur: The family owners of a mill owner in Nathnagar block have alleged that the patriarch succumbed to a heart attack on March 7, triggered by pressure mounted by South Bihar Power Distribution Company Limited employees for immediate payment of Rs 29 lakh electricity dues.
Rang Lal Sah, the son of Gaina Lal Sah (76) of Dudhala Mirjapur Nayatola under Nirpur panchayat, lodged a complaint with Madhusudanpur police station against the SBPDCL for issuing power bills for three months amounting to Rs 29 lakh at one go. "My father, who ran a small wheat mill to support our family, submitted an application for bill rectification," Rang Lal said.
He further alleged that five-six employees from the power office came on March 7 and started abusing Gaina Lal for not paying the power dues. "They were in no mood to listen to my father about the bill rectification application. Humiliated, he fainted following a heart attack. The men fled. We rushed him to Nathnagar primary heath centre, where doctors declared him dead," he said in a choked voice.
The police sent the body for post-mortem, the results of which are awaited. Despite repeated attempts, this correspondent could not contact any SBPDCL officer for comment in the case. Many other power consumers have alleged SBPDCL's high-handedness and acute harassment, mainly because of wrong billing.
According to Mohammad Lutufur Raham, the treasurer of Islamiyah mosque of Islamnagar in Vikhanpur locality in the heart of Bhagalpur town, the power company billed the mosque for Rs 7,30,758 for the past three months. "We had paid a bill of Rs 750 in December 2017. But I have no clue as to how why the bill has shot up in the past three months."
Many residents complained about gross irregularities by SBPDCL, particularly providing wrong bills. "During the tenure of Bhagalpur Electricity Distribution Company Private Limited (BEDCP), such mistakes were common which are continuing despite the takeover by a government concern," said Sumil Kumar Chatterjee, a power consumer.
Sources attributed the termination of BEDCP's services on November 26, 2017, and SBPDCL's takeover owing to such irregularities.
Many consumers complained that meter reading had been stopped for the past 3-4 months. "The company assigned a private firm for door-to-door meter reading. Incompetent persons take meter-reading, thereby triggering such problems," said Ashok Yadav of Tilkamanjhi locality.
Many others alleged that there was not a single person in the Tilkamanjhi, Mojahidpur, Aliganj and Nathnagar sub-divisional offices of SBPDCL even to listen to customers' grievances.
Sources from SBPDCL said the private company had been assigned to collect meter-readings from 2.25 lakh consumers. "We have received complaints against faulty meter reading. But the problem compounded as rectification of the bills is only possible from Patna. No officer here is entitled to make such change," the source said.
But SBPDCL superintending engineer S.P. Singh claimed that the department was serious to provide accurate bills to power consumers.