Accusing Tata Power of aiming for only high-paying users and ignoring applications for residential connections in the suburbs, about 60 consumer representatives at a suomotu hearing held by the state electricity regulator on Thursday demanded spot inspections of the company's cable-laying activity to determine the truth. The complainants said the yearlong ban imposed in August on switchover of high-paying consumers from Reliance Infrastructure (R-Infra) to Tata Power, a move aimed at preventing the cherry-picking of heavy-use consumers, should be extended to at least four years as the "Tata Power machinery has adopted dilly-dally tactics" with applicants consuming less than 300 units a month.
"Conduct spot inspections to determine whether Tata is setting up its network and connections to benefit common residential consumers with cheaper power or only aiming for high-paying consumers," a consumer representative said.
"Due to this the consumer imbalance between TPC and Reliance Infrastructure (RInfra) and thus in cross-subsidy sharing is burdening monthly electricity bills of residents in suburbs," another consumer representative said. Of the 27 lakh consumers of R-Infra, over 20 lakh are residential.
The switch to Tata was allowed by the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) to bring in a level playing field that would benefit consumers.
At the hearing, some consumers suggested as to why TPC could have been given certain networks in residential and slum areas at one go in order to avoid the slow process of switchover.
People from several residential societies and slums alleged that Tata was rejecting their connection applications on flimsy grounds.
Tata Power head of regulations Vidyadhar Wagle refuted the allegations, saying the company was adding a large number of residential consumers every month. He said BMC permissions at times lead to difficulties in laying cables.
Raising his objection, Congress MLA from Kandivli (E) Thakur Ramesh Singh argued that it was wrong on part of the TPC to ask for cheque payment from poor consumers for whom payment by cash was much easier. He rubbished the TPC claims that they had held camps in slum pockets in the city thus forcing people to run from pillar to post. Consumer representatives contended that the TPC was probably not accepting their forms out of the apprehensions whether or not they would be able to pay their electricity bills or not.
Later in the day, a Tata Power statement said: "The MERC hearing took place today (Thursday) and Tata Power emphasized that the complaints registered were mostly misplaced. While most of the applicants were contacted by Tata Power and their concerns have already been effectively addressed, its investigation revealed that some representations have incorrect addresses and seemed fabricated from vested interests. Tata Power's comprehensive submission to the regulator also highlighted the difficulties caused by R-Infra's uncooperative stance in smooth facilitation of the switchover process.
Refuting the contentions made by consumer representatives, Wagle stated that till June 2011 the company was giving bulk application forms. But later it found that the forms were being misused and were being sold though the company had clearly stated that they were free of cost. He added that in cases of long queues it was not possible for the company staff to accept bulk forms and process them quickly.
However, he said, the company officials themselves approached housing societies in cases where there were demands for more than 25 application forms. He added that the company had accepted downloaded application forms too. Wagle stated that excluding the four months of monsoon, there is limited time of just eight months in which network laying work has to be done.
Interestingly, on MERC directives asking for calibration of consumer switchover, the TPC and RInfra have filed petitions with appellate tribunal hearing on which is scheduled in the first week of February.
Source- Times of India