Shetti warns govt. against ‘forced recovery’ from power consumers

After the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government said that it would not be able to extend any concessions in power bills to consumers, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) chief Raju Shetti on Wednesday warned that attempts at ‘forced recovery’ would result in serious consequences for the ruling tripartite MVA.

State Energy Minister Nitin Raut, who had earlier hinted at providing relief to domestic consumers saddled with inflated electricity bills during the lockdown period, did a volte face on Tuesday by stating that his department would not be able to provide relief, while putting the onus on the Centre and holding the erstwhile Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government responsible for the State’s mounting energy arrears.

“Mr. Raut has been consistently saying that his government will be taking measures to provide relief and help consumers who have received inflated power bills, while hinting at concessions before Deepavali. Now, he is throwing his hands up and stating that he will ensure stern recovery. Is this the good news that he had promised for harried consumers?” asked the former MP from Hatkanangale in Kolhapur.

Mr. Shetti, who had cast in his lot with Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in the 2019 general elections, is one of the four nominees to the State Legislative Council put forward by the NCP, a coalition partner in the MVA.

The farmers’ leader said that if the MVA ministers kept up with such irresponsible utterances, then it would not be long before common people lost their faith in Mr. Thackeray’s government. “Commoners and small farmers suffered most during the lockdown. It has been our [SSS’] ongoing demand that the State government waive off power bills during the COVID-19-induced lockdown. How does it expect smaller businesses to cough up the money when everything has been shut for the past half-year?” Mr. Shetti asked.

Castigating Mr. Raut for his announcement, he said that the minister ought not to make such proclamations unless he had a green signal from senior leaders of the MVA government.

“In the event that the State government attempts forced recovery, then we will hit the streets and protest strongly,” Mr. Shetti warned.

Defending his announcement, Mr. Raut tweeted: “The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the financial position of Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL). However, the biggest blow to the MSEDCL was delat by the previous BJP government for not even showing average efficiency and in their non-recovery of electricity bills. As a result, during their rule, the MSEDCL’s arrears has now shot up to Rs. 50,000 crore.”

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