A convenient way to pay electricity bill?

N. Thimme Gowda, general manager (Revenue), Bescom, says consumers cannot operate the kiosks on their own as the software is being changed as part of the implementation of the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme.— File Photo: K. Murali Kumar  

The purpose of all-time payment (ATP) kiosks at Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) offices is to facilitate payment of bills by consumers at their convenience, any time in the day, on their own. However, in reality, one has to wait for hours on end to pay the bill though at Bescom offices the kiosks are manned by operators.

When this reporter recently visited a kiosk at Konanakunte around noon, there were at least 15 persons waiting to pay their bills. The staff told them that the operator was counting cash and would start work only at 1 p.m. When consumers returned after an hour, it was lunch break for the operator.

‘Not our business’

Rajappa, a senior citizen, who had walked quite a distance to pay the bill, said, “If the operator is not there, why can’t someone else take the payment? It is not possible for me to come back again. I do not have that much energy.” Bescom officials told him that the service has been outsourced and it is now not their business to take bill payments.

Meanwhile, a waiting consumer tried to operate the kiosk on his own, but in vain. All the options had been disabled. Besides, the instruction chart that was supposed to be put up beside the kiosk was missing.

With patience was running out, one of those waiting called one of the three helpline numbers written on the wall beside the kiosk.

An HR manager who took the call promised to attend to the complaint. After sometime, when the consumer called the number again, he claimed to have told the operator to come back in 15 minutes.

After a little while, the HR manager, with whom one of the consumers had lodged a complaint about the missing operator, called to say that the operator is on his way. Finally, it was only at around 3 p.m. that people, who had been waiting since noon, could pay the bill.

“Two months ago, we used to operate this machine on our own which has become impossible now due to the change. So if there are no operators, we can’t pay our bills. I have to stand in a queue until the operator shows up,” said Shwetha A. at Chikkalsandra kiosk.

‘Software issue’

When the matter was brought to the notice of N. Thimme Gowda, general manager (Revenue), Bescom, he explained that consumers cannot operate the kiosks on their own as the software is being changed as part of the implementation of Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (R-APDRP).

“We are on the verge of implementing R-APDRP in all our offices. With its implementation at all 47 subdivisions, consumers will be able to pay at any ATP irrespective of subdivisions,” Mr. Thimme Gowda added.

Yet another problem that consumers pointed out was that the server is often down and the purpose of ATP kiosks is defeated. Riaz Ahmed at ISRO Layout said, “I come to this kiosk regularly. The operator is very cooperative and does his work quickly. But we have to wait for a long time because the server is down very often”.

When operators were questioned about consumer queries, they had their own grievances to share. Parmesh P., the ATP operator of J.P. Nagar I Phase, said: “Sometimes, people send children or their domestic help to pay bills. The operators are there to help such people who are not tech savvy.”

Mahalakshmi N., an operator at Gandhi Bazaar added, “We are expected to work 12 hours a day and we are paid a meagre salary of Rs. 6,000 a month.”