By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, January 10, 2019: The move by Central Electricity Supply Undertaking’s (CESU) to cut electricity supply to over 7 lakh consumers in 11397 villages from January 16 due to non-payment has sparked off a political row in Odisha.

Opposition parties including the BJP and Congress have threatened a strike in the state if the state’s biggest power distribution company carries out its plan to disconnect power supply to consumers in 11000-odd villages over pending dues.

“Domestic consumers of CESU owe Rs 1251 crore while commercial consumers need to pay another Rs 243 crore. So far, around 1.10 lakh consumers have cleared their dues amounting to Rs 21 crore,” said CESU CEO, Arun Bothra Bothra. However, he clarified that consumers with power arrears up to Rs 25,000 have to pay at least 30 percent of the pending bill and the balance in three installments. Those with arrears up to Rs 50,000 and more, can clear the outstanding in four to six installments, he said.

Congress questioned CESU’s decision to snap power supply describing it as autocratic and questioned why it targeted only poor people when “thousands of crores” in electricity dues were pending against several industries.

CESU, with a consumer base of over 27 lakh, is spread over 9 districts and is run by Odisha government since last 14 years after its initial phase of privatisation came a cropper. Last month, Tata Power Company Limited announced that it has won a bid for distribution and retail supply in five electrical circles of CESU for an initial period of 25 years.

Congress leaders pointed out that at a time when lakhs of students would write their matriculation and higher secondary examination in about a month, the move to disconnect power would disrupt their studies. “The party will storm streets if CESU goes ahead with mass power disconnection drive against consumers who are unable to pay the bills,” said Congress MLA Suresh Routray.

BJP state general secretary Prithviraj Harichandan said threatening the poor consumers with a deadline was undemocratic.

“May be Tata Power Co Ltd. has set up terms and conditions that it will take over the management only after all the pending bills are cleared. I think there is some internal agreement between the two,” he said.

A CESU official, however, said the power utility has no intention of disconnecting power but it was running out of options, if the default on payment for power continued.

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