Streets of many villages in the five north-coastal districts will soon be left in the dark if the citybased Eascity-basedr Distribution Company Limited (APEPDCL) decides to impose power cuts in the villages as a final recourse to handling the mounting electricity bill arrears that are owed by these panchayats.
According to the sources, almost 90% of 4,000 odd villages will be affected if the discom takes a decision to cut power to the street lights. Each village has nearly 50 to 150 street lights depending on the size of the village and population. Overall, the discom has nearly five lakh street lights in all villages.
Village sarpanches are solely responsible for making payments for the power bills, but they have not been doing so for years, citing various reasons like lack of funding from the government. Power consumed for civic facilities like street lights, water supply pumps, and sarpanch offices are considered for electricity bills against the panchayat’s name.
According to the discom’s figures, all major and minor panchayats, municipal corporations, municipalities and NTR Sujala Scheme in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, East and West Godavari districts owe power bill arrears to the tune of Rs 636.8 crore and the collection stood at a mere Rs 43.76 crore till June.
“We have to get a lion’s share of the power bill arrears from both major and minor panchayats in the discom limits,” said HY Dora, chairman and managing director of EPDCL.
Both major and minor panchayats owe power bills to the tune of Rs 621.60 crore against the total arrears of Rs 636.8 crore from five government departments.
“The discom got only Rs 11.81 crore from the major and minor panchayats up to June 2018. This is the situation from the panchayats. So, as a strict enforcement measure, we are planning to implement power cuts in the panchayats that fail to pay power bills for at least this current month. We are not asking them to pay the arrears, we are just asking them to pay the bills for the current month,” Dora told TOI.
Discom sources said major and minor panchayats have been getting funds directly from the Centre through the 14th Finance Commission from April 2017. As per the rules, 25% of the funds should be used for power bill payments, but the sarpanches are not doing it and are instead learnt to be diverting funds.
“Sarpanches are diverting the funds for their own political purposes and other works instead using the money to pay power bills. The government should take it seriously and ensure that the power bill arrears to the discom are cleared,” said a senior discom official.
Discom sources said they are observing the payments from the month of June. The village sarpanches are supposed to make payments of the June bill in the month of July. If the sarpanches do not do so, the discom officials will start seriously considering implementation of power cuts to the street lights effective from August as a last resort in order to force the panchayats to pay up.
News Source : Economic times