People across major cities in Maharashtra, including Bollywood celebrities in Mumbai, were left shocked by this month's exorbitant electricity bill and have accused the power companies of issuing inflated invoices.
The claim has been dismissed by private and state-run electricity companies, who said the bills were based on actual meter readings, unlike the ones sent during the coronavirus lockdown when bill amounts were based on aggregates of previous billing cycle - February-March.
Though the state minister for energy had assured that power companies were not cheating people, the Chief Minister's Office today said it has directed power companies to transparently resolve all complaints.
Taking stock of the rising number of consumer complaints related to exorbitant electricity bills, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) has directed power companies to show transparency in its billing procedures and redress the consumer complaints immediately.— CMO Maharashtra (@CMOMaharashtra) June 30, 2020
Actor Taapsee Pannu shared an image of her power bill, which was Rs 36,000, and wrote "3 months of lockdown and I wonder what appliance(s) I have newly used or bought in the apartment only last month to have such an insane rise in my electricity bill." She also said that her bill for the months of April and May was just Rs 4,000.
3 months of lockdown and I wonder what appliance(s) I have newly used or bought in the apartment only last month to have such an insane rise in my electricity bill. @Adani_Elec_Mum what kind of POWER r u charging us for? pic.twitter.com/jZMMoxDMgj— taapsee pannu (@taapsee) June 28, 2020
The common man has also voiced their concern over high electricity bills.
Anand Malepu, who stays in a one room-kitchen unit in Mumbai's Prabhadevi area, said his bill this month was 4 times higher than last month's.
"I haven't used as much electricity as I did last month. Even if I did, the bill should have been twice as high. My May bill was Rs 860, but now it has come to Rs 3,420, which is four times higher," Mr Malepu said, adding that he uses an average of 120 units of power each month.
Rajan Sawant, whose electricity is supplied by BEST or The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking, got a bill of Rs 5,190. This, according to him, is again four times of what he was billed in April and May.
"This is an unusual bill amount. So, I request the BEST to let me know what is the break-up of the bill and what are the units of consumption," Mr Sawant said.
All power suppliers in Mumbai-BEST, Tata Power, Adani Electricity - and the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited have sent higher-than-average bills, but said these are not inflated.
According to the suppliers, the bills sent over last three months were lower than average because their staff could not read the meters during the lockdown in Mumbai. They said they issued bills based on average consumption for January and February - the winter months when power consumption is lower.
But now, companies said, their employees have started the process of reading meters and the bills are being adjusted to reflect true consumption.
In a statement, Tata Power said, "Post Unlock 1.0, we have resumed meter reading activity and bills are being generated based on actual readings. The final bill is raised after adjusting consumption and bill amount as per the estimated bills raised in the interim period (sic)."
The Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited also issued a statement: "Our meter readers have started visiting residential areas to note down readings. This will take into account the consumption from March to May. People have been billed less as no meter readings were taking place during this period. People were charged on an average basis. But now the bill will be higher."