Power riots spread after consumers receive ‘inflated’ bills

Posted on June 22, 2011. Filed under: Energy crisis, Pakistan, Tariff, Wapda / KESC |

KARACHI, June 21: While many city areas continued to remain without electricity for most part of the day, residents and traders staged demonstrations to protest against the Karachi Electric Supply Company after they received “inflated” bills on Tuesday.

Power riots spread to Jodia Bazaar, Old Golimar, Gadap, North Karachi, Korangi, Landhi, Lyari and other localities, where people blocked roads by setting tyres on fire. Contingents of police and Rangers were called in to control the crowds at some places. Street protests against frequent power breakdowns have also been planned for Friday.

Amid the demonstrations, many influential segments of society have started appealing to the people not to pay their monthly power utility bills and to resist the power utility if it launched a disconnection drive.

Several protesters complained that they had been suffering up to 14 hours of loadshedding daily and yet they received bills with power dues twice the amount they had paid last month.

Some of them said the KESC sent inflated bills without meter reading and that the management should stop blaming workers for its poor service.

People staged a protest demonstration against power outages in Jodia Bazaar and shouted slogans against the KESC management. They lit a bonfire and smashed everything inside it with great ferocity. Traders and residents of the Bolton Market and Napier Road areas also staged protests. Residents of Old Golimar and adjoining areas were equally enraged. They blocked traffic by setting fire to old tyres.

A resident of North Karachi’s Sector 7D3 was among the thousands of KESC consumers who had received inflated electricity bills on June 20. He claimed that electricity charges for one month to be paid by June 25 were three times that of the pre vious bill. “The June 2011 bill, with normal charging mode status, carrying a meter reading of 28952 as of June 1 requires me to pay Rs5,700 for consuming 557 units,” he said. In fact, the meter reading on June 21 was 28771, he added.

A visit to the recently relocated billing office of KESC North Karachi Zone on Tuesday was not productive. Half of the staff was standing outside and the rest was showing least interest in helping the consumers who had gathered there to get their bills corrected.

No senior official was sitting at the office and some officials were discouraging the visitors, saying that bill correction was not possible. The officials were quoted as saying that people should better pay the bills as Nepra had allowed 79 paisa fuel adjustment for the months of April and May and its impact would be shown in the next bill.

Online bills While the power crisis deepened with prolonged outages and unattended faults blamed by the KESC management on workers’ protest, monthly bills remained undelivered in many areas.

In this situation, the KESC management advised people who had not received monthly electricity bills around their usual time to use alternative online arrangements for payment of bills.

The KESC spokesperson said that it had introduced five easy methods for the convenience of customers besides the normal way of using printed bills. First, people could visit the utility’s official website and enter the 13-digit account number to retrieve duplicate copies of the current electricity bills, which could be printed and presented at all banks for making payment. Secondly, people could go to the offices of Nadra, NIB Bank branches, Easy Paisa outlets, UBL Omni Banking and 1Link ATMs, and present the 13-digit account number. These outlets would retrieve bill details and provide a payment receipt of the bill to the customer. Thirdly, the customers who did not receive their monthly bills, could phone the KESC call centre 118 and follow the automated system to retrieve a duplicate copy of the bill. Fourthly, people could email 13-digit account number to receive an online copy of their bill, which could be used for payment. Fifthly, people familiar with online payment could use their existing online banking services as most banks provided the facility for payment of utility bills.

Workers The protesting labour union of the KESC rejected the alternative ‘facility’ for bills payment and said the management did not assure people of enhanced power supply. The labour union asked the government and the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority to take notice of the KESC management’s high-handedness and complete apathy towards people’s problems and needs.

A few consumers whom Dawn spoke to were furious at the management’s measures saying that their major concern was resumption of normal power supply.

They said the KESC had not been recording the actual meter reading while with this move the power utility had attempted to absolve itself of delivering the bills on time.

Protest call The Jamaat-i-Islami Karachi chapter has announced that June 24 would be observed as a protest day against the increasing hours of power loadshedding and tariff hike.

A party’s handout said that power outages had affected the commercial and industrial businesses. The demonstrations would be staged on roads and at roundabouts. The main protest would be staged at Lasbela Chowk, the handout stated.

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