A multi-crore scam in 'Mahavitaran' in times of pandemic
- Unmesh Gujarathi
- Jun 20, 2021
MUMBAI: In the distressing times of COVID-19 pandemic when the central and state governments are trying their best to alleviate the hardships faces by the citizens' certain employees of the state-run electricity utility company are indulging in serious malpractices that is not only causing huge losses to the state exchequer but also eventually costing the consumer.
Rajaram Mane, the superintendent engineer of the Vashi circle of Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd (MSEDCL) better known as Mahavitaran, has allegedly tampered with electricity bills of hundreds of power consumers and has thus defrauded the state exchequer of crores of rupees.
While it has led to the huge loss to the MSEDCL, the hundreds of power consumers are bearing the burden of this loss and unfortunately, top-level MSEDCL officials are shielding the guilty. This has been proved by documents in possession of “Sprout”.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns across the country, including Maharashtra, people are frustrated physically, mentally and economically. Despite this, the state government has issued inflated power consumption bills to the consumers. Not only this but the Government also sternly threatened consumers to disconnect the power supply if they fail to pay the bills in time.
With a view to boosting the industry the Mahavitaran supplies power at industrial rates to the companies in the state. The rate is minimal. The Mahavitaran recently sent assessment bills to some of the companies, with an allegation that they have been violating norms.
As per section 126 of the Electricity Act 2003, a penalty can be imposed upon any consumer, if the consumer gives wrong information. This section stipulates the recovery of the bills for the last two years at a commercial rate and the recoverable amount could be double the original amount with a fine. The consumer has the right to appeal within one month if the bill is inflated or erroneous.
The superintendent has powers to withdraw the bill if the justification given by the consumer is found to be correct. Mane has alleged misused this provision and collected crores of rupees by making “adjustments” in the bills. Several consumers have complained to the Mahavitaran about this.
Mane sent inflated bills to many companies to collect money underhand and also tampered with the bills of many companies and incurred the loss to Mahavitaran. Now gullible consumers will be required to face this loss willy-nilly.
The complaints about these irregularities have been made to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Energy Minister Nitin Raut, MSEDCL’ ex-Managing Director Asim Gupta, current MSEDCL Director Vijay Singhal and other officials. But no action has been taken against the guilty.
Mane could not be reached. When contacted MSEDCL’s CPRO Mamta Pande said that she had no information about these irregularities.
'Sprout' has collected vital documents related to this scam. The Government should conduct a thorough probe of this multi-crore rupees scam and suspend all those involved in the scam. The failure to probe the scam may invite a massive public agitation, Janata Dal (North-West Mumbai) President Sanjiv Kumar Sadanandan said.