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Chandigarh, Feb 3 (IANS) Faced with losses running into hundreds of crores of rupees, power distribution companies (discoms) in Haryana are offering incentives to consumers in the state.
The discoms have asked electricity consumers to pay their bills to ensure that they get continued power supply for longer durations, especially in rural areas.
Another incentive is to allow consumers to pay their bill arrears in parts if they pay a minimum 50 per cent of the dues in the first instalment.
Haryana's discoms are offering power supply up to 20 hours every day to villages if they pay their bills and take steps to cut down on distribution losses. Haryana's rural consumers are notorious for power theft and not paying bills.
"We intend to give power supply in villages on the urban pattern for 20 hours a day. For that, villagers are required to bring down the aggregate technical and commercial losses to below 25 per cent. They need to check power theft and pay bills on time," said Devender Singh, chairman and managing director of Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN) and Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (UHBVN).
Haryana's discoms have a debt of over Rs.1,900 crore.
Singh said that the poor financial condition of discoms, mostly due to unpaid bills, was responsible for electricity not being supplied despite being available. Discoms are unable to purchase power that is available, he added.
"The financial health of power distribution utilities must be sound for reliable and qualitative power supply. This is possible only if consumers pay for electricity consumed by them. Some discoms resort to load shedding even while electricity is available, which leaves a lot of capacity stranded. This is clearly an untenable situation," Singh said.
"In view of poor financial returns, banks had started denying loans to them a year ago," he added.
In June 2005, the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in Haryana announced a massive scheme to waive off arrears worth Rs.1,600 crore for consumers who had not paid for a decade. The rider was that consumers would pay their bills regularly for the next 20 months.
Discoms are also offering defaulting consumers to take advantage of the 2005 arrears waiver scheme by paying their pending dues by March 31.
Responding to the incentives offered by the discoms, the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) has said it would cooperate to bring villagers forward to get the benefits of the bill waiver scheme.
"We will cooperate if the consumers are informed about the complete details of their bills," BKU general secretary Ram Phal Kandela said, adding that the BKU has never been in favour of power theft.
The discoms are also trying to make people aware of the legal consequences of stealing power.
"People should restrain from stealing power. People should take it as a social stigma if they are caught stealing electricity. It is equal to stealing from a neighbour. Power theft affects tariff, causing heavier bills to honest consumers," Singh said.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)