In Kerala, electricity and water bill arrears pile up during COVID-19 pandemic

Arrears on electricity and water bills have built up considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic months, show data released by the Departments of Power and Water resources.

Dues owed by electricity and water consumers to the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) have shot up from ₹1,548.5 crore and ₹1,111.54 crore respectively in 2019-end to over ₹2,000 crore each, according to the latest available data.

As of April 30 this year, electricity consumers owe the KSEB ₹2,461.82 crore. The biggest defaulters included private establishments (₹911.43 crore), State public sector institutions (₹773.73 crore) and domestic consumers (₹484.66 crore), show data presented in the State Legislative Assembly.

The KWA too has reported an increase in water bill dues. The State-run water utility is owed ₹2,067.25 crore by its consumers. The biggest water bill defaulters include non-domestic category (₹941.96 crore), domestic consumers (₹316.79 crore) and local self-government institutions (₹737.63 crore), as per the latest available data.

Arrears on electricity bill payments had stood at ₹1,548.5 crore on December 31, 2019, while the outstanding dues on water bills were pegged at ₹1,111.54 crore in October 2019.

Pandemic restrictions

Senior KSEB and KWA officials attributed the sharp increase to the COVID-19 outbreak and the consequent restrictions that badly hit the collection of electricity and water charges. With the pandemic-induced economic downturn upsetting livelihoods, the State government had directed the utilities not to disconnect supply to defaulters.

''Sections in the domestic category and industrial/commercial categories are finding it hard to pay their bills due to the hardships caused by the pandemic. The collection of electricity charges has been hit by about 50%, although meter reading and billing are carried out smoothly,'' said KSEB chairman and managing director N. S. Pillai.

''The pandemic had forced us to shut the cash counters, which hit collection. The counters are now open on select days, strictly adhering to the COVID-19 protocol. The pandemic had also disrupted the meter reading exercise. We hope to take steps in the months ahead to recover the dues,'' said Sreekumar G., Technical Member, KWA.

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 3:34:40 AM |

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