A small rice trader of Benachity Durgapur is surprised and shocked by the fact that for the past three months, he is receiving electricity bills averaging Rs 4 lakh from West Bengal State Electricity Development Company Ltd (WBSEDCL). Mr. Najit Mishra, 45, owns a rice shop at Salbagan of Benachity in Durgapur and never got electricity bill exceeding Rs 750 a month.
Mishra, who has been living in a one-storey house in Salbagan area of Benachity for the past 40 years and runs a small shop from home, said: “In July, I received an electricity bill of Rs 4,68,476. I was astonished. I went to the local WBSEDCL office and asked the officials how this could be possible. I showed them my earlier bills, which has never exceeded Rs 750 a month. The next month, I got a bill of Rs 4,69,403 and in September the amount was Rs 5,04,419”.
Mr. Mishra further added, that “I have approached the local power utility officials several times and told them that it would not be possible for me to pay Rs 13 lakh, that too for power I have not consumed. But they told me that if I did not clear the bills by November 8, my connection would be snapped. They said I had defaulted for three months. I tried to make them understand, that they must be realistic in their approach and realize that somewhere something is wrong. But they are in no mood to listen and served me the November 8 deadline.” He has a commercial connection and receives electricity bills every month.
A senior WBSEDCL official in Durgapur said the exceptionally high bill amounts could be because of a “technical error”. “What is more astonishing is that he received such amounts for three months in a row. But Mishra will have to pay the due amount before we do something for him. He will have to lodge a complaint with us, following which we will call him for a settlement hearing,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
A WBSEDCL official in Calcutta said if a person with an average monthly bill of Rs 750 suddenly got a bill in excess of Rs 4 lakh, “there must be something wrong”. “I will enquire about the matter. The consumer won’t have to immediately pay such a huge amount. Let us first check the bills and find out what exactly has happened,” he said.
Bidyut Mandal, the Trinamul councillor of the ward where Mishra lives, have however showed apathy for Mishra and promised to look into the matter and help Mr. Mishra.