Discoms’ staff want stoppage of customer services with close human contact

Consumers paying electricity bills at electricity office in Sangareddy.

Consumers paying electricity bills at electricity office in Sangareddy.   | Photo Credit: file photo

They fear handling cash remitted by consumers to pay bills with COVID-19 spread fear

At a time when the scare of spread of coronavirus has been making even the newspaper and milk delivery boys runaway from their work, partly due to fear among themselves and partly due to customers refusal to receive the products, some institutions engaged in “essential services” have been continuing their work unmindful of the fear among their employees.

Although all the four power utilities in the State have been categorised under the essential services by the State government even during the ongoing lockdown (to slowdown and prevent the spread of coronavirus) to ensure uninterrupted power supply to all categories of consumers, the staff of the two distribution companies (discoms) engaged in revenue collection and other customer services are a worried lot as they need to come in contact with people.

“Handling cash being remitted by consumers as part of payment of their energy bills is getting scary, in the wake of coronavirus spread and the news that the virus would spread through the currency notes too as they change hands very often. Besides, maintaining social distance is almost impossible as all those who come to pay bills are not completely aware of the current situation,” a revenue collection employee in Kukatpally, preferring to be anonymous, told The Hindu.

According to officials, there are about 80 customer service centres (CSCs) in the State, including 13 integrated CSCs, in the City and four outside offering various power-related customer services, including revenue collection. There are another 63 energy revenue offices where bill payment is accepted from consumers. Of them, 22 are in the City and 41 across the State.

The CSCs and ICSCs also offer services such as category change, name change and additional load request of existing consumers as also processing new service connection applications. However, they all require biometric authentication of the consumers. “We are taking care like cleaning the biometric authentication recording device with sanitiser after use by every consumer coming to us, but it all filled with risk. People, particularly from IT sector are coming to the centres for getting the work done since most of them are working from home now,” another discom employee manning an ICSC stated.

They want the government to discontinue the services which require close human-to-human contact such as collecting the biometric authentication as has been done by the passport and property registration services, which also involve biometric authentication, to prevent the virus spread. The biometric attendance system even in the corporate and few other main offices of the four power utilities has been discontinued by rolling back to signing of attendance register in the wake of coronavirus scare, but not the customer services involving such system, they pointed out.

MoP reduces LC by 50%

In an attempt to provide relief to the power distribution companies facing liquidity problems due to the delays in revenue collection in the ongoing lockdown, the Ministry of Power has recently directed the Central public sector generation and transmission companies to continue supply of electricity to discoms, irrespective of their large outstanding dues, during the present emergency.

The MoP has also made it clear that there would be no curtailment of supply of power to any discom. Further, the Ministry has also decided to reduce the payment security mechanism (letter of credit given to the generation companies) by 50% till June-end for continuing power supply.

Besides, directions have been issued to the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission to provide a moratorium of three months to discoms to make payments to generating companies and transmission licensees and not to levy penal rates of late payment surcharge. The MoP has also asked the State governments to issue similar directions to State electricity regulatory commissions.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 12:08:58 AM |

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