Ground Report: Dalit Labourer Confronts Rs 58 Lakh Bill for One Fan and Three Bulbs – Seeking Justice at Every Govt Door

The big game of UP electricity department came to light in the ground report of The Mooknayak. The electricity department handed over a bill of more than Rs 58 lakh to Dalit for the use of three LED bulbs and a fan. The victim, who works as a laborer at someone else's house, has made dozens of trips to the electricity department, tehsil and district headquarters in the hope of justice.
Electricity meter installed at Dinanath's house.
Electricity meter installed at Dinanath's house.Pic- Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak

Uttar Pradesh- When Dinanath received his electricity bill in November of this year, the ground slipped from under his feet. Dinanath, belonging to the Dalit community and having only three bulbs and one fan in his house, was shocked to discover an electricity bill exceeding Rs 58 lakh. Dinanath's impoverished condition is such that, while working as a labourer in other houses in the village, he can barely manage to feed his family in the evening. Due to this significant error by the electricity department, Dinanath's family is in a state of shock, as they neither possess land nor engage in any business to afford such a hefty sum.

The Mooknayak team visited Chakma village in the Harraiya tehsil area of the Basti district in Uttar Pradesh to assess the reality and financial condition of Dinanath's family.

Village name board installed outside Chakma village.
Village name board installed outside Chakma village.Pic- Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak

Dinanath's wages are the only means by which his wife Kokila (32), and three children (one daughter and two sons) are able to survive. When the team of The Mooknayak reached Dinanath's house, he had gone to someone's house in the village to peel sugarcane. Dinanath's wife was also in the village. His children returned from school and were completing their schoolwork sitting on the cot in front of the house.

Dinanath's sister-in-law, told the team that ever since the family has received an electricity bill of Rs 58 lakh, the entire family is in trouble. 'Brother (Deenanath) has been running with a bicycle for a month. Sometimes he goes to sub-station, sometimes to tehsil. But no one is listening," she said.

The house of Dalit Dinanath who received an electricity bill of Rs 58 lakh in November this year.
The house of Dalit Dinanath who received an electricity bill of Rs 58 lakh in November this year.Pic- Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak

Despite Dinanath's month-long efforts, running from pillar to post, no one has been willing to address their concerns.

Dinanath's wife Kokila also reached home after getting information about the arrival of some people at home. Kokila, visibly anxious, initially hesitated to share details until Dinanath's arrival. However, she later presented several documents received from the electricity department, showing them to The Mooknayak.

Kokila appeared frightened, seemingly convinced that we were representatives from the electricity department. However, as she learned more about our identity during the introduction, her apprehension gradually eased. The saga of Dinanath's plight had become the talk of the entire village. Following the arrival of The Mooknayak team, curious onlookers flocked to Dinanath's house, speculating that perhaps officials from the electricity department had arrived.

However, the atmosphere was charged with resentment among the villagers due to the staggering electricity bill of Rs 58 lakh that Dinanath had received. As word spread, a growing crowd gathered at his residence. In a short span, 7-8 women from the village arrived at Dinanath's house. Expressing their dissatisfaction, one woman from the village conveyed to The Mooknayak team, "Dina-Bahu's (Deenanath's wife) condition has worsened considerably. If something untoward happens to a family member, who will be held responsible?"

The documents, photocopies of which The Mooknayak possesses, indicate that Dinanath obtained the electricity connection in his name on September 20, 2014. He cleared the full bill of Rs 6043 on April 30, 2017. Subsequent payments were made in 2018, though the payment bill for that year has mysteriously disappeared.

Dinanath's wife Kokila's health has been deteriorating since the day she received an electricity bill of Rs 58 lakh.
Dinanath's wife Kokila's health has been deteriorating since the day she received an electricity bill of Rs 58 lakh.Pic- Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak

Kokila explained that due to non-payment of outstanding dues, the power connection remained disconnected between November 2022 and June 2023. On June 10, 2023, after Dinanath paid Rs 1000, the connection was restored, and a meter was installed the same day. Shockingly, in November of the same year, the electricity bill amounted to Rs 58,40,000 (fifty-eight lakh twenty-eight thousand rupees).

Dinanath did not pay the electricity bill from 2018 till June 2023. However, it is worth noting that he had paid a total of Rs 6043 in 2017 for the use of only 3 LED bulbs and one fan. The perplexing question arises: how can the electricity bill amount to Rs 58 lakh in the intervening four and a half years during which no payment was made?

There are only 3 LED bulbs and one fan installed in Dinanath's house, on which the electricity bill is Rs 58 lakh.
There are only 3 LED bulbs and one fan installed in Dinanath's house, on which the electricity bill is Rs 58 lakh.Pic- Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak

According to the current electricity bill of Rs 58 lakh 40 thousand received in five years (from 2018 to 2023), Dinanath has purportedly used electricity worth more than Rs 11 lakh every year. If we calculate it month-wise, Dinanath has supposedly consumed electricity worth about Rs 97 thousand per month. This is perplexing, especially considering that The Mooknayak team did not find any heavy-duty electrical appliances in Dinanath's house, except 3 LED bulbs and a fan.

Kokila called her husband to inform him about the arrival of The Mooknayak team. Dinanath, who was working as a labourer in peeling sugarcane in someone's field in the village, reached home after 15-20 minutes.

“In 2017, the electricity bill was settled after making the full payment. I paid the full bill in 2018 also. In 2022, we faced a bill of Rs 13,000. Subsequently, the bills surged with alarming increments – Rs 41,000 followed by Rs 72,000. The escalation continued, reaching an astonishing one lakh. Finally, the electricity bill skyrocketed to an exorbitant amount of Rs 58 lakh 40 thousand" Dinanath spoke remorsefully.

Dinanath is a laborer who works on daily basis. He is under great stress as to how he will pay the electricity department bill of Rs 58 lakh.
Dinanath is a laborer who works on daily basis. He is under great stress as to how he will pay the electricity department bill of Rs 58 lakh.Pic- Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak

It is worth noting here that, according to the documents received, the electricity meter was installed at Dinanath's house in the month of June 2023. In earlier years, Dinanath's electricity bill was only around six and a half thousand rupees per year. However, after 2018, Dinanath's electricity bill kept increasing continuously. In such a situation, the question arises: Was Dinanath a victim of departmental irregularities?

Dinanath told that ever since he received the hefty electricity bill, he has been running to the authorities to get it rectified. “Went to Harraiya, and Chhavni, applied here and they said it would be fine. When I went to the powerhouse, the people there told me not to run here, get it repaired somewhere else. I went to Vishesarganj as I was told that if I submit the application, it will be fine. But even after doing that, the bill was not settled,” Dinanath told about his difficulties.

The stove in Dinanath's house where his family cooks food.
The stove in Dinanath's house where his family cooks food.Pic- Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak

The poor labourer has no idea what went wrong with his electricity bill. He wants the issue to be fixed. Dinanath says that they work as laborers at their respective places in the village. Sometimes if one don't get any work he has to sit at home. Dinanath never left home to work.

Palakdhari of the same village told The Mooknayak, “You people can see what his house (Dinanath) is like. No factory is running. The people of this department should tell from where and how they have brought so many bills and added them. We want the department to get his electricity meter fixed and give him a reasonable bill.”

Virendra Kumar of Chakma village also objects to the faulty power bill. He said that Dinanath's wife is unwell. He is getting his wife treated. There are small children to be looked after. Dinanath had run everywhere, but there was no hearing anywhere. “In this village this has happened only with Dinanath. Even if these people sell themselves, they will not be able to collect this much money,” Virendra Kumar told The Mooknayak.

Efforts by The Mooknayak to reach Executive Engineer Harraiya, Ankur Awasthi, proved futile despite multiple attempts. However, persistence paid off as The Mooknayak successfully connected with Manoj Sahu, SDO of Dubaulia Sub-Division. Sahu asserted that Dinanath's electricity bill has been rectified, citing multiple billings such as RDF, CDF, and various other types. He highlighted that the substantial billing irregularities were a result of Dinanath having his meter changed six months ago.

According to SDO Sahu, Dinanath's electricity connection had been disconnected due to an outstanding amount of Rs 1 or 1.5 lakh. This disconnection was subsequently addressed by him, who paid Rs 1000 in June of the current year. Notably, the old meter was replaced with a new one during this process.

Complete electricity bill payment receipt of 2017, when Dinanath had deposited Rs 6043.
Complete electricity bill payment receipt of 2017, when Dinanath had deposited Rs 6043.Pic- Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak

Once again, the pertinent question arises: if Dinanath has consistently been paying an annual electricity bill of about Rs 3600 - 6 thousand, how did it suddenly escalate to Rs 1 lakh or 1.5 lakh over a span of 4 to 5.5 years? When questioned about the possible pre-existing departmental fault, the SDO responded, “If Dinanath had not changed the meter in June, the department would have taken Suo Motu cognizance. But he got the meter changed.”

It is crucial to note that in the aforementioned report, we emphasized that Dinanath had been tirelessly making rounds of Tehsil, District Headquarters, Electricity Center, and Electricity Sub-station for a month. In such a situation, what assurance existed that the department would automatically address and settle Dinanath's electricity bill, taking cognizance of the matter?

Electrical arrears discrepancy: 13,000 crore outstanding at ministerial residences

In the year 2019, a staggering Rs 13,000 crore in outstanding electricity bills loomed over the residences of ministers, MLAs, and officials. Delving further into the past, approximately four years ago, government departments, residences, police stations, and hospitals in Uttar Pradesh grappled with overdue electricity bills persisting for almost two decades.

The then Yogi Adityanath government, in response to this burgeoning crisis, unequivocally stated its unwillingness to bear the escalating arrears of electricity bills at government residences and offices.

Former state Energy Minister Shrikant Sharma emphasized the severity of the situation, revealing that the outstanding dues on government offices and residences had surpassed a staggering Rs 13,000 crore. To recover such a monumental amount, the government provided the option of depositing the money in instalments and introduced a Rs 1 lakh prepaid payment scheme. Simultaneously, an order was issued for the installation of meters at government offices and residences of leaders and officials.

While instances of electricity bill arrears amounting to lakhs of crores have surfaced against government departments, leaders, and ministers themselves, a stark contrast emerges. Families hailing from poor and marginalized communities, lacking even the basic electric appliances to consume such substantial electricity, find themselves unwitting victims of irregularities within the electricity department.

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