Maharashtra’s Energy Minister – the Congress’s Nitin Raut – has announced a “Diwali bonanza” for people of the state after complaints over inflated power bills. Mr Raut also hinted that a decision on these inflated bills will be taken soon, with a waiver likely. He said he had received a call from “Matoshree” (Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s residence) to resolve this issue on a priority basis.
“We plan to do what we have promised. You are aware that during the COVID-19 pandemic the economy has seen a depression. Our first priority was to save lives. We diverted the entire budget to that cause. But electricity is important and people’s livelihoods have not completely returned. Financial conditions are not good. Keeping that in mind we are planning a Diwali bonanza,” he said.
“My department has already moved the file and it has gone to the Finance Minister, but Ajit dada (Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who handles that ministry) is currently unwell. He will take a look at it soon and we are following it up,” Mr Raut added.
Ajit Pawar is recovering from a coronavirus infection and only discharged from the hospital today.
Last Thursday MNS chief Raj Thackeray – the Chief Minister’s cousin – met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhavan and sought his intervention on the issue of inflated power bills.
Mr Thackeray accused the government of dragging its feet and even took a dig at his cousin.
Several people, including celebrities in Mumbai and other parts of the state, complained about the bills during the Covid lockdown. The matter reached the Bombay High Court in July and the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL) was directed to act soon.
Responding to Raj Thackeray’s meeting with the Governor, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said meeting Mr Koshyari instead of the Chief Minister was an insult to the state.
“To meet the governor and not the Chief Minister is the BJP’s agenda. Others should not follow BJP’s agenda,” he said, adding, “The state has an elected government in place. Therefore, to resolve any public grievance one should meet the concerned minister and then the chief minister.”
“To meet the governor first to resolve public issues is an affront to Maharashtra,” he added.
Nitin Raut also announced a committee would consider a free electricity scheme similar to the one in Delhi, but said its work had been hampered by the Covid lockdown.
“The committee has been able to meet only once. Physical meetings are necessary… video-conferencing won’t do the job. The committee has not been able to submit its report. I am hopeful that before the next budget session the report will come and we will work on it in the next budget,” he said.
Last year Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal rolled out a free electricity scheme, under which households using up to 200 units in a month need not pay.
When asked about Ajit Pawar’s opposition on grounds that it would drain the state’s finances, Nitin Raut said: “Ajit dada is Finance Minister… he has to talk about his ministry. I am the Power Minister… I have to talk about my ministry.”