A majority of complaints so far have come from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, however, Rajasthan residents have also griped about exorbitant electricity bills during the lockdown months.
The strict restrictions on movement during the nationwide lockdown, which began on March 25, meant that power distribution companies were either unable to send staff or faced difficulty in navigating the restrictions in place in reaching consumers’ homes to read their meters. It ensured that discoms would need to work out a way to collect electricity bills without actually reading meters.
The Telangana State Southern Power Distribution Company Limited (TSSPDCL), which supplies electricity to 15 Telangana districts, sent its staff to collect meter readings after three months of lockdown. The bills sent to consumers were based on cumulative consumption of the past three months.
Most states have a graded system of tariffs, meaning consumers are charged less for the first few units, the rates gradually go up for further consumption. For instance, in Telangana the first 50 units are charged at Rs 1.45 per unit, units 51 to 100 are charged at Rs 2.6 per unit, and so on.
Now, cumulative reading has meant that most consumers are paying a much higher sum than they would if meter readings are done every month.
Many Telangana and Andhra Pradesh residents have aired their grievances on Twitter, with photos of inflated bills.
Former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has urged the current incumbent YS Jaganmohan Reddy to waive bills for the past three months.
“People are at homes due to lockdown. There's been no work, no wages. Suddenly, Andhra Pradesh government gives them this blown up bill generated through faulty slab systems. Can the common man pay? We demand YS Jagan Mohan Reddy waive bills for the last three months and provide relief to people,” Naidu tweeted in May.
People are at homes due to lockdown. There’s been no work,no wages. Suddenly, AP Govt gives them this blown up bill generated through faulty slab systems. Can the common man pay? We demand @ysjagan to waive bills for the last 3 months & provide relief to people#PowerBillShocksAPpic.twitter.com/vSEy7dskgb
— N Chandrababu Naidu #StayHomeSaveLives (@ncbn) May 21, 2020
The cases are not isolated in southern parts of India. Consumers in Jaipur, Rajasthan have also complained of exorbitant bills.
"I used to get a bill of up to Rs 200 to 450. I paid the bill. After that, I received a bill showing 62 units and a payable amount of Rs 2,700. I had gone to the concerned office but they said that nothing will happen this month now," Ramesh Chand, a consumer told India Today TV.
With most states undergoing a similar set of issues during the lockdown, consumers in other states could also be faced with the problem of inflated bills.