Friday, October 30, 2020

Powerless people

The Nagaland Department of Power on August 28 informed that with the imposition of COVID-19 lockdown measures/restrictions since March 24, the department is facing huge challenges for its staff to carry out routine monthly revenue activity of meter reading, billing, bill delivery and collection, adversely affecting revenue collections, and resulting in huge drainage of the State’s exchequer to purchase adequate/required power. Highlighting various measures the department will be undertaking during August for bill payment – from online payment to coordinating with colonies/wards/village council for bill delivery, Engineer-in-chief, DoPN, Er. Shikato Sema warned that the DoPN assisted by the police and administration shall carry out extensive disconnection exercise of payment defaulters (consumers/localities/villages) from Sept/Oct 2020 without further information. This decision of the DoPN, and by extension the state government, appears illogical and autocratic. When the department itself admits that it is facing difficulties to carry out routine monthly revenue activity of meter reading, billing, bill delivery and collection, how does the department expects the consumers to pay their power bill? It is not the job of the consumer to go searching for their power bill, pandemic or no pandemic, and unless the bill is delivered the consumers are justified in not paying it. However, it is not the issue of bill delivery and payment of bill alone that is plaguing the state power department; there are many underlying issues for its failure to deliver. The non-payment of electricity bills by consumers is just an excuse for its inefficiency. In fact for years we are being told that our people steal electricity and they are responsible for the mess themselves! One must question this assumption- who steals. Electricity pilferage doesn’t occur in Nagaland only. Yet in our part those who are caught in hooking they are fined, alright, but worse their details are splashed in newspaper. Where is this done in the world? Common consumers alone are held responsible for power theft. Have we really analyzed how much power is used in a Cabinet Minister’s quarter? The observation will be equal to or more than 10 or more households in rural areas. According to an estimate, more than half of the outstanding power tariff is owed by government departments. The reality is not accepted by the government and axe has always fallen on poor consumers. But what can you say of that place where elections are fought on electricity, water and roads? Three of the most basic amenities that should be free for a man as is air. Yet in our part of the world politicians lure people with these slogans as if they are doing some magnanimous act. What is the function of the government if they cannot provide such common things? What is the role of a government if it cannot give water, electricity, roads to the people whom it governs or administers? Can any politician, sitting in the legislature, disclose how much bill he gets every month? And from whose pocket they pay that electricity bill? In our State an employee who earns Rs 50,000 or more and the majority whose average income is less than Rs 10000 per month there are no different schemes for them. It is an established fact that rich consume more electricity than the poor. Here in our State most of the poor use only two electric equipments (if they can afford) during summer: a fan and fridge. Compare it with a rich household – they have ACs, microwaves, electric kettles, toasters, mixers, blowers, washing machines, laptops et al. Who is consuming more? Yet the rate for both of them is same. A poor will not be given special scheme but a rich can get away with flat rate or he will be provided with another power connection with a fixed rate per month! The peak season of using electricity in Dimapur is in summers while for Kohima it is during winter. Today an average householder gets only 10-12 hours of electricity a day during summer in Dimapur. Our government assures people that uninterrupted electricity will be provided to the people. It is a hoax.