• Sunday, Jul 05, 2020
  • Last Update : 05:26 pm

News Analysis: Power to the people

  • Published at 01:31 pm June 29th, 2020

Overall ours is a story of success in power, not of failure, and the sector deserves praise, not public wrath

Power empowers people. Bangladesh is a living example of that. With its ability to generate and distribute more electricity to industries and households, Bangladesh has dramatically improved the quality of its people’s life.

Along with other attributes, higher power generation has indeed propelled the engine of its economy over the past decade or so in a fashion that its past progress can in no way match.

There was a time when some people in power were more into the business of power poles and cables than electricity generation. Even as recently as in the year 2008, over half of the Bangladesh population was power-starved. Today over 90 percent of the people in this country have access to electricity.

It is to the credit of the pragmatic policies that this government pursued over the last one decade or so that not only the generation of power has increased dramatically but the sector also got diversified – on all counts – both through involvement of public and private sectors and the utilization of varieties of energy resources – renewable and nonrenewable – gas, coal, solar, and wind.

In the process of moving quickly and decisively to higher power generation capacity, the government also endured its share of criticism for waste of public money in the form of quick rental power units and other alleged grafts and irregularities. But overall ours is a story of success in power, not of failure.

Now, since the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of electricity consumers are facing a new problem in the form of apparent overbilling. 

Failing to employ their meter readers in reading meters of the electricity consumers during the current corona time, different power distribution companies are hitting their customers with bills which they find highly inflated. The customers are being asked to pay much higher power bills than before.

Instead of earning much deserved praise for generating and distributing uninterrupted power to millions of urban and rural households and industries, the power sector has been drawing flak for some time, mostly because of institutional negligence. 

Customers say that the companies could well calculate a lump sum electricity bill against each customer by averaging their previous monthly power usage pattern but instead, the billings were done in recent months with little apparent rhyme or reason.

The most intriguing part of this power overbilling saga comes at the end. Authorities are now asking customers to pay all outstanding bills since February 2020 by June 30 and they would have to pay a penalty for late payment after that.

This adds insult to injury, as customers are finding the bigger penalty in already having to pay hugely inflated bills. 

And this June 30 deadline comes at a time when the ministry concerned formed a taskforce on June 25 giving it a 7-day mandate to settle the overbilling issue. 

It does not make any sense for millions of aggrieved power consumers who are asked to pay their bills by June 30 if then the government will take action against overbilling only upon receipt of the taskforce report. 

If we can generate more power than Bangladesh’s actual daily demand now, why can we not handle such a billing fiasco better?

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