Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

With sweltering condition making life difficult and Matric examination underway, unscheduled and erratic power cut across various parts of Odisha have only worsened the situation.

Residents have alleged that on the pretext of collecting arrear electric bills, Tata Power Central Odisha Distribution Limited (TPCODL) is tormenting people by resorting to power cuts during the crucial Matric examination.

Take the case of Baunsabania Gram Pachayat under Oupada block in Balasore district. There has been unscheduled disruption of power supply over last four days in as many as three villages—Junia, Nuasahi and Khali Gaon amid the prevailing heat wave conditions and the ongoing Matric examination. More than 200 families are suffering in the sweltering heat during daytime due to prolonged power outages. Moreover, the worst suffers are the students who are not able to study and prepare for their board examination.

As per the allegations of the villagers, TPCODL authorities have pushed the future of the students into darkness. The villagers have further alleged that while a  few of the villagers have not paid their electric bills, it is not justified for TPCODL to disrupt the power supply of the entire village without giving any prior notice.

“We are facing a lot of trouble due to the power disruption at night. Matriculation is an important examination in our career. We are frustrated not being able to prepare well for the board examination,” said Nirmal Mallick, a Matric examinee.

“TPCODL officials are saying that the power supply has been disrupted in our village as some of the customers have not paid their bills. However, we don't understand why all the villagers will suffer due to the negligence of some people,” said a resident of Baunsabania.

In another such case, residents of Pujaripada village in Sambalpur district have also raised similar kind of allegations. As per their complaint, TPCODL authorities are disconnecting power supply of poor families on the pretext of collecting arrear bills.

“TPCODL has slapped a fine of Rs 29,000 on us without any valid reason and snapped power connection to our house. We are living without electricity and are helpless,” said Seema Mallick, a resident of Pujaripada.

Concerned over the alleged ordeal of the people, BJP had staged a gherao around the Executive Engineer office in Sambalpur a couple of days back. The saffron party leaders also raised the issue in Odisha Assembly on Friday. They alleged that TPCODL is exploiting the consumers by collecting electric bills illegally and resorting to power cuts. They also alleged that the company is fleecing the customers and in the process violating the contract with the State government.

“TPCODL authorities are resorting to hooliganism and forcing poor people to pay electric bills illegally on the pretext of arrears which is not acceptable,” said BJP leader, Annapurna Barik.

However, State Energy Minister Pratap Deb refuted all the allegations against TPCODL.

“We have public arrear of Rs 7,886 crore and if it will not be paid, public has to pay it again in form of taxes. TPCODL is taking action as per Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC) policy and the allegations are false and baseless,” said Deb.