Power Minister, Haryana Ranjit Chautala
With Haryana power utilities facing pending electricity bills worth about Rs 5,000 crore (including about Rs 3,000 crore from the rural areas), Haryana Power Minister Ranjit Chautala has decided to hold “Bijli Panchayats” to motivate consumers to pay the dues. In first such Panchayat held in Hisar on January 5 this year, representatives of more than 100 villages, which had the maximum defaulting amounts against them, participated. An independent member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), and the youngest son of former Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal, Chautala tells Sukhbir Siwach about the concept of Bijli Panchayats.
What do you aim to achieve from such Bijli Panchayats?
Under this campaign, we tell the consumer to pay their arrears and (in return) the government will waive off their surcharge. We also give the option to deposit their pending bills in instalments. After my appeal, the consumers from those villagers which were not depositing their dues have started paying their bills.
How do you convince the villagers?
I tell them that I am (also) the son of a farmer. I am their best well-wisher. I tell them that you can get sanctioned as many transformers and electricity lines as you need. But you just accept one suggestion of mine: be a good paymaster and stop stealing electricity. (In return) I will ensure round the clock electricity in your villages.
Have you noticed any impact of your campaign?
Within a month, the electricity line losses have dropped by 2 per cent. The line losses have dropped to 14 per cent now from 30 per cent when the Bharatiya Janata Party took over the government in 2014. The state has now surplus electricity; there is no power shortage. During the sowing season of crops, the electricity supply to farmers was increased to 10 hours daily, from the previous 8 hours.
How do you curb power thefts?
I have decided to conduct raids if I get information about the involvement of big players in power theft. In a raid conducted during one night, nine officers including three Chief Engineers and five Superintending Engineers of the Electricity Department were caught stealing electricity by kundi (illegal) connections. I imposed a penalty of Rs 7 lakh on them. It sent out a message that tough action will be initiated if anybody is found involved in the theft of electricity.
How do you plan to tackle the long pendency of electricity connections for tube wells?
We have initiated the process to release the electricity connections to those consumers who had deposited full payments by December 31, 2018. By April this year, we will release nearby 5,000 electricity connections for tube wells in the state. As many 12,000 consumers in the state have made part-time payments for such connections.