“One who pays bills regularly, even if he is the poorest or the most backward, is more important than a Very Important Person who does not pay bills on time”
by Seram Neken
It is a fact that the electricity department does not deliver bills to the consumers regularly. Negligence and insincerity on the part of officials and staffs of the power department have always discouraged the public to pay regular power bills. Most electricity complaint rooms do not respond befittingly to the people’s needs, unless it is for VIP categorized lines. There is seemingly a very high degree of discrimination between VIPs and the general consumers in the power distribution. Department can flex muscles to general consumers for small dues, while it ignores the hefty dues of government agencies and important persons. One who pays bills regularly, even if he is the poorest or the most backward, is more important than a Very Important Person who does not pay bills on time.
Tax or bill payment system is not customer-friendly in Manipur. It is not surprising that I had to wait for two working days to get a copy of my Jamabandi (Patta) and pay its land tax at a certain SDC office in Imphal East district only because there was no staff for the purpose. The irregularity of concerned staff has often dissatisfied many tax payers. Service providers have hampered the dutiful presence of many tax payers. It is a regular affaire of the system in Manipur. Tax or bill payment systems need to be properly functional to the satisfaction of customers so as to inculcate sense of regularity among people.
Utility bills are not paid regularly by many unless compelled to do so. It is a general behavior for majority of people in Manipur that telephone bills are paid only when it is disconnected. Employees very hesitatingly pay electric bills when no-due certificates are demanded for salary withdrawals. None regularly pay land taxes unless circumstances compelled them to do so for various other purposes. People lack sense of paying utility bills regularly due to many factors – It is obvious that bills do not reach the consumers regularly. There is no customer-friendly payment system in Manipur. Services provided are not satisfactory at all. Hence, habit of paying regular bills is absent among general public.
It is easily affordable for a middle class family to pay electric bills regularly. But if the bills do not knock the door on time, people simply forget it. It is now questionable whether the electricity department send bills to consumers on regular basis ? Whether the consumers avail of the bill payment facility on the spot via the department collectors ? Whether the power supply is satisfactory to the dutiful consumers ? On the basis of the above queries, it is well established that the concerned department has to create a consumer friendly environment so that people develop the sense of regularity and dutifulness.
A massive drive against power theft and non-payment of electric bills has recently been launched in the state with the objective of enhancing power supply for dutiful consumers. Thanks to the trio – Prof Amar Yumnam, Pradip Phanjoubam and Prof Bimol Akoijam who filed a Public Interest Litigation at the Gauhati High Court regarding the erratic power supply in Manipur. In fact, power theft is the major factor for about 70 percent of power loss resulting in poor power supply in the state and existing power condition may be augmented with reduction of power loss percentage. Under the Electricity Act, 2003 (amended in 2007), a number of citizens on criminal charges of power theft have been booked and many power lines have been disconnected for non-payment of overdue bills for more than three months. The state electricity department has also collected large sums in the first few days of the drive. The department has also decided to fix power meters for all consumers to ensure commensurate billing. Although the initiative is too late, people in general have to extend co-operation to the executers for this big endeavour.
Streamlining the system of billing and tax collection by the electricity department is the need of the hour before forcibly employing the electricity act on the innocent public. It may be suggested in this regard that electric bills should reach the consumers strictly on time through the department staff so that people can pay it on time. On the spot collection of bills may also be enabled for those busied people. Bill payment counters may be opened at more and more locations so that people can easily pay the bills. Power supply shall be done as regular as possible, as consumers need satisfaction to vomit the bills on time. The complaint rooms do not respond to people’s needs on time, unless it is for VIPs. If possible, either online bill payments or payment through debit/ credit cards may also be enabled for more convenience to public. Moreover, the VIPs, officials, major departments and government establishments may be made exemplary by paying bills regularly. It is not wise for the concerned department to put extra-effort on the small and negligible dues of the poor general public, while ignoring hefty dues of big departments and establishments. Let the public automatically follow the path of the leading bros.
(Writer is a freelance columnist)