K.T. Rajan, a resident of Pattabhiram who had applied for a new electricity connection in September 2012, is an angry man. Whenever he goes to the local EB office at Pattabhiram, the TANGEDCO officials tell him his application is pending because of a shortage of three phase meters. Mr Rajan can take cold comfort from the fact that he is not alone.
A senior official of TANGEDCO confirmed that applications for new connections have been pending since August, 2012 and said more than 30,000 applications for both new meters and replacement of defective meters have been pending as on February 2013. TANGEDCO blames the shortage of electricity meters for this huge backlog.
The CMD of TANGEDCO had also issued a memo dated September 1, 2012, asking the officials to ‘give top priority to redressal of consumer grievances’ regarding replacement of defective meters and effecting new services connections. Despite these official pronouncements, the consumers are stuck for want of meters. And while they wait for TANGEDCO to deliver, domestic consumers, who are provided with a temporary connection, pay a flat rate of Rs. 5.50 per unit irrespective of consumption.
In July last year, the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission had taken strong exception to mounting complaints from consumers about the delay in replacing defective meters and effecting new service connections. . It also passed a Standards of Performance Regulation for the period from October 1, 2011, to March 31, 2013 in which it states that new service connection should be effected within one month.’
Mr Rajan was also advised by officials to buy a meter on his own. However, he found that the process of buying and installing a three-phase meter from the TANGEDCO-specified shop at Royapettah was no easy process.
“First a customer has to purchase the meter from one of the designated retailers selling meters from seven suppliers . Then, the customer has to inform the local TANGEDCO official, who deputes a person to pick up the meter for Meter Relay Testing (MRT) for which the customer has to bear the transport cost (a minimum of Rs. 500). Then, the customer has to wait for the MRT result.
Incidentally, the prices charged by private retailers for the meters often do not match the official guidelines. At Enertech Electric Enterprises, located at Moore Street, Parrys, one of the designated outlets for meters, the market cost of single phase meter is Rs. 1,360 and three phase meter Rs. 3,800 as opposed to the officially-sanctioned prices of Rs.785.79 and Rs. 2,216.75 each.
B. Sadagopan, a consumer activist, said the procedural red tape put in place by TANGEDCO to test the meters on ‘priority basis’ stood in the way of consumers purchasing meters from private suppliers.