: Ullattu Alavi, in his late sixties, says his zeal to question came from his early years as a beedi maker.

After a long stint in the Gulf, which he says was just to make enough money to marry off his four daughters, the resident of Velluvambram in Malappuram district has been for the past two years doing what he does best — ask questions through the Right to Information (RTI) mechanism.

Mr. Alavi, a plumber by trade, has devoted his time to questioning the State government’s policy to burden the common man with hefty power bills.

He was one of the first speakers at the public hearing conducted by the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission on Wednesday. To the Commission, he introduced himself as a common man with little book knowledge but with some “worldly knowledge”.

His question to the Commission: “If the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has Rs.1,202.59 crore in dues since 2011, why cannot they take steps to collect it instead of making the common man, the poor labourer, bear the burden?” Mr.Alavi based his entire arguments before the Commission on his RTI papers.

“In the seventies, I was a young man who rolled beedies. We used to sit in a large circle and someone would read the newspapers for us. Everybody talked about everything under the sun. Only our hands were tied, not our mouths. I got my information from those discussions and demonstrations we held carrying torches. That was before I left for the Gulf,” Mr. Allavi said.

He came back in 2011 to learn about the Right to Information Act, 2005.

“I have been using the RTI law for the past two years to know why the KSEB is charging us when it has to realise a huge amount as dues. I have already written to the KSEB chairman, secretary and the Power Minister. I had raised this issue at the Janasamparkam programme of the Chief Minister,” he said.

Mr. Allavi was followed by representatives of various sectors who spoke before the Commission. The hearing saw some KSEB staffers appearing in their individual capacity as householders to complain about load-shedding.

One of them suggested printing advertisements on power bills to increase the Board’s income and ways to prevent power thefts.

Another consumer, T.K.A Azeez, who is the district president of the Consumer Protection Committee, suggested to the Commission that the KSEB should give early warning of load-shedding.