GUWAHATI, April 17 – The Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB), and the Assam Electricity Regulatory Commission (AERC) have attracted flak for their failure to respond to consumer grievances. Consumers across the state have been complaining about poor electricity supply, but both the entities have chosen not to respond.
In the last few days, Guwahati and its adjoining areas have seen frequent disruption in power supply, and areas even close to the Dispur capital complex had to go without electricity for 12 hours or more. In many parts of the city, the problems mounted immediately after the Sunday evening storm that damaged power infrastructure.
However, due to adverse weather, repair works could not be carried out in a prompt manner. It was several hours before power could be restored in areas like Survey, Beltola, and Hatigaon. Uninterrupted power was not available even after 24 hours, creating inconvenience for thousands of consumers.
A resident of Hatigaon, Supriya Sarma told The Assam Tribune, they did not have uninterrupted power supply since Sunday evening. The situation is such that they are finding it difficult to operate essential electrical equipment such as the water pump.
Consumers have frequently complained about delayed response from the ASEB whenever they have drawn attention to serious problems, which at times put peoples’ lives at risk. Most of the times, it has been reported, ASEB personnel take several hours to attend to the complaints.
According to Ajay Hazarika of the Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, an NGO advocating consumer rights, the Assam Electricity Regulatory Commission (AERC) has utterly failed in coming to the aid of consumers, a fact revealed by its apathy to complaints.
He pointed out that there are time limits set for rendering service to electricity consumers. For instance in the case of ‘Line Breakdowns’ in cities/towns the consumers have to be paid Rs 10 per day for delay beyond one day, if the number of affected consumers is less than 50.
Compensations are also to be paid in case of delay in response to fuse-off/fault calls, replacement of damaged service line, complaints about meters, among others. However, many consumers are not aware of these provisions.
Hazarika pointed out that even when complaints are registered the AERC has a habit of remaining unconcerned. He mentioned that during the period 2006-2007 to 2010-11 not a single consumer was provided any compensation.
Consumer rights activists have also held the AERC and ASEB responsible for their inability to put compensation issues in the public domain. They allege that absence of such information in the public domain undermines transparency, and keeps people in the dark about their legitimate rights as consumers.