Nagpur: Amid the reports of large number of electricity bills carrying forward the arrears, being sent to the farmers, Energy minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule had formed a three-member committee in June 2015 to investigate complaints against MSEDCL. The committee is all set to submit its report to the government on July 10. Pratap Hogade, one of the members of the committee, has made a sensation disclosure that half of the power bill arrears owed by farmers to MSEDCL are bogus. He however, refused to disclose the contents of the report.
Hogade told a news paper, “Farmers owe Rs22,000 crore to MSEDCL as per the discom records. About Rs10,000 crore is the delayed payment charges and interest component, which means Rs12,000 crore is the principal amount. Of this about 50% are bogus arrears. They are due to inflated bills issued to farmers by the discom.”
MSEDCL passes off power theft as farm power consumption. This implies that power costing Rs6,000 crore was pilfered over the years due to callous working of MSEDCL.
MSEDCL has implemented a arrears recovery scheme for farmers — Krishi Sanjivani Yojana – several times. Under it the interest component is waived off if farmers pay the principal amount.
“When the discom implemented it for the first time in 2004, about 80% farmers paid up. However, when the current government implemented it between 2014 and 2016, the success rate was only 17%. This is because farmers feel that they were issued inflated bills. I will urge the government to issue farmers corrected bills and then re-implement Krishi Sanjivani Yojana. I am sure it will get good response and MSEDCL will be able to recover the actual arrears of Rs6,000 crore,” said Hogade.
MSEDCL issues inflated power bills to farmers to artificially reduce its distribution losses. The discom claims that it is in the range of 13% to 14% but in reality it is around 25%, according to experts.
MSEDCL has done little to stop power pilferage in the state. It instead juggles figures to show that power pilfered was consumed by farmers especially those without meters. This helps the discom in two ways. It avoids paying huge penalty prescribed by Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) and gets additional subsidy from state government.
Farmers get power at subsidized rates. The difference between the subsidized rate and actual rate is paid by the state government to MSEDCL. The agricultural tariff for metered consumers is Rs3.15 per unit whereas they actually pay 20 paise per unit. The difference — Rs2.95 per unit — is paid by the government. Thus for every extra unit billed to farmers MSEDCL gets Rs2.95 subsidy.
MERC sets distribution loss reduction targets for MSEDCL in every power tariff order. If the discom fails to achieve it then the loss occured due to extra losses has to be borne by it. If MSEDCL shows it as farm power consumption then it can not only avoid paying penalty but recover this amount from honest consumers by provision of bad debts through power tariff.