Power bills, of late, are making millionaires shudder. But a few privileged consumers could not care less. They are the official shirkers, condoned by discoms and indulged by the powers that be.
No, the reference here is not to the Old City consumers who are notorious for stealing power, nor is it to the farmers availing free power. Rather, it is about government servants residing in state-allotted quarters, yet royally defaulting in payment of power bills.
According to the A.P. Central Power Distribution Company (APCPDCL) records, power arrears from the State Government quarters at the end of 2012 stood at Rs.5.75 crore.
With 3,000-plus consumers on the defaulters’ list, the dues per head amounted to over Rs.19,000! Topping the charts are the all-powerful policemen. Over 90 per cent of the arrears are from various police quarters across the seven districts covered by the CPDCL. Medak Circle tops the list with over Rs.1.5-crore arrears from police quarters, while Nalgonda follows close behind at Rs.1.3-crore. Ranga Reddy (East) is yet to receive Rs. 1 crore from the police quarters.
With the lower cadres defaulting with impunity, can officers remain far behind? While the absolute amount does not look so staggering, arrears from IAS and IPS officers are no less scandalising. The total amount to be received by way of power bills from the officers’ quarters in Hyderabad (North) circle stands at Rs. 38 lakh, distributed across 200 connections.
However, the arrears are not always equally distributed across the defaulters. !
It is usually a norm with discoms to disconnect power supply for defaulters which is promptly followed if the consumer is a commoner. However, despite huge arrears, the company has been treating Government quarters with kid gloves for years on. Inside sources attribute the partisan attitude to pressure from above. The discom is headed by IAS officers as its successive CMDs, who are generally lenient towards those from their clan.
All past attempts to disconnect power supply have invariably ended in immediate restoration, due to which the field cadre have stopped caring about the mounting bills. Further, frequent transfers have made it difficult for the company to track the original defaulter.
“Once, we even tried discussing it with the General Administration Wing and asked them to seek a ‘no objection certificate’ issued by CPDCL from the outgoing officers. But they refused to do so, and asked us to follow our procedures in bill collection,” said a CPDCL official.