After drawing flak for steep hike in power bills, the Kerala government on Thursday announced a slew of subsidy packages for domestic consumers for the extra bill received by them during the COVID-19 lockdown period.
It is estimated that the Kerala State Electricity Board will incur an additional liability of Rs 200 crore by providing this subsidy which would benefit about 90 lakh domestic consumers.
The state government has come under attack from various quarters over the spike in electricity bills during the shutdown period.
"Based on the complaints about huge bills, the government instructed the Electricity Board to look into the billing complaints and rectify any errors. Accordingly, the Board has decided to give ample time for making payments in instalments. They have also informed us that there will be no disconnection on account of non-payment of bills," Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.
The opposition has accused the state government of fleecing the people of the state during the COVID-19 crisis.
"The state government is fleecing the people of the state during the COVID-19 crisis. This is like an unannounced tariff hike,” Leader of Opposition Chennithala has said, adding that the delayed metre reading due to the lockdown shifted many people to the next higher power tariff slab.
The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has, however, informed that the latest bill generated was for two-and-a-half months instead of the usual two months.
The board said it was resolving the complaints regarding the bills.
Pinarayi, in a press meet on Thursday, said the electricity consumption usually increases from February to May but since this time there was a lockdown, the power consumption has increased drastically as all the family members were in the house.
"As they were unable to take the readings due to the lockdown, consumers have got a consolidated bill for four months resulting in huge amounts.
There has been no change in tariff structure or electricity rates," Pinarayi said.
The Chief Minister announced free electricity for those with a connected load of less than 500 watts, regardless of the amount of electricity used.
He also said that those with a connected load of 1,000 watts and usage of up to 40 units per month, will be billed at Rs 1.50 per unit.
"For usage of up to 50 units per month, 50 per cent of the additional amount billed will be given as subsidy. For usage of up to 100 units per month, 30 per cent of the additional amount billed will be given as subsidy," Pinarayi said.
He also announced similar subsidies in other slab rates for electricity tariffs and said consumers can pay the electricity bill in up to five instalments.