Blaming the previous BJP-led government in Maharashtra for the rise in the electricity bill arrears, state energy minister Nitin Raut on Friday said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has ordered a probe into the state-run power company's dues. Speaking to reporters, Raut said the issue of pending electricity bills was discussed by the state cabinet on Thursday. "By the end of March 2014, the pending electricity dues in the state were at Rs 14,154.5 crore, which has now gone up to Rs 59,149.8 crore," he said, blaming the erstwhile BJP government for it.
The BJP was in power in Maharashtra from October 2014 to 2019 in Maharashtra.
"The issue of pending electricity bills came up for discussion during the Maharashtra cabinet meeting and chief minister Uddhav Thackeray ji has ordered a probe into it. We will definitely probe it," Raut said.
With consumers complaining of receiving inflated electricity bills during the pandemic, opposition parties in Maharashtra have demanded that the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government grant concessions in payment. Raut refuted the BJP's claims that the companies of the energy department performed well under the previous Devendra Fadnavis government. "The profits of the companies gradually decreased under their watch," he alleged. When asked about the BJP's protest on the issue of inflated electricity bills, Raut said he will be happy if the party protests against the Centre, for allegedly not giving Maharashtra its GST share of Rs 28,000 crore.
Raut further said that the energy department had sought Rs 10,000 crore subsidy from the Centre, but has not received any response so far. The minister, however, also said that the BJP leaders who are protesting over the issue of inflated power bills should visit him in his office and he will get the bills checked. "But they should promise to pay the bill amount if the bills are not found to be inflated," Raut said, adding it is "wrong" to play politics over the issue.
The minister further said that he is firm on his statement that free electricity should be provided to residential users, whose monthly consumption is up to 100 units. Raut said he had formed a committee to look into the idea, but the panel could not meet due to the pandemic. "But after the Covid-19 crisis gets over and the sins of the BJP (of pending electricity dues) are washed, I will definitely work on the proposal. You will see me working on it," he added.
Raut also talked about the Maharashtra government's new policy, under which one lakh new electricity connections for agriculture pumps will be given every year. The decision was taken at the cabinet meeting on Thursday. "We brought the policy for the state's farmers. There are around 43 lakh farmers who have agriculture pumps. The arrears of their (of farmers with agriculture pumps) electricity bills is of Rs 42,107 crore," Raut said.
"We are going to waive of Rs 15,000 crore dues of these. We are going to strengthen the basic amenities under the policy," he added.