Private power utility CESC on Thursday said it would start collecting the amount kept “in abeyance” for the months preceding June, over 10 equated monthly instalments, from the November billing cycle.
The decision was taken to prevent inconvenience to consumers, CESC said.
“First of all, the amount is being divided into 10 installments for the ease of payment of consumers. Then, this is being done from the November billing cycle, which will include around six months of relatively cooler conditions, usually marked by less consumption,” said Avijit Ghosh, vice-president (distribution services), CESC.
“Moreover, only the monetary amount that had been kept in abeyance will be collected, with no impact on the rate slabs for the units consumed for the 10 bills, November onwards.”
The announcement came around four months after the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group-owned utility — enjoying a virtual monopoly in the sector for 33 lakh consumers over a 567sq km area comprising Calcutta and its immediate neighbourhood — had announced that the actual due amount for the months preceding June was being kept “in abeyance”.
The bills from the November cycle would include a header called “Adjustments” for the dues, which will be explained in detail overleaf, in every bill.
“For instance, if the total amount kept in abeyance was Rs 1,228, an amount of Rs 122.8 would be added to every bill from the billing cycle of November this year to August next year. So if the bill for November was going to be Rs 1,000 otherwise, it would be Rs 1,122.8, approximately,” said Ghosh.
Some consumers, however, have already started expressing doubts over the announcement.
“I thought that the amount kept in abeyance was already being taken as EMIs in the bills, as the bills for the past couple of months have been much higher than usual, despite no need for air-conditioning…. This announcement is surprising,” said Ballygunge resident Sumita Chatterjee, a 64-year-old investment consultant.
In July, the utility had said bills suddenly seemed inflated because it was adjusting dues from the March 23-June 7 period when actual meter readings could not be collected because of the lockdown. During the period, CESC had said, it had only collected from consumers an average of the six months’ bill preceding the period.
But, after hundreds of the utility’s 33 lakh consumers cried foul over allegedly inflated — “absurdly high” — bills, CESC kept the dues “in abeyance”.
The bills of June, issued in July, became the subject of countless jokes and memes on social media, with numerous notable civil society members joining in and protests erupting at CESC offices in some parts of the city.
As the Opposition started turning it into a political issue, the Mamata Banerjee government intervened and the utility revised its June bill, along with an explanation of its method of calculation for the revision printed on the bill, which only those consumers who did not already pay were expected to pay.
Those who had already paid the previously issued June bill did not have to pay anything and the adjustment for their payment was given subsequently.
“Let’s, once again, keep in focus that all this was done as a consumer-friendly initiative,” said Debasish Banerjee, CESC managing director (distribution).