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Consumers powerless against meter changing in Uttar Pradesh

According to reports, after inadequate power supply, the UP power department has dealt another shocker to consumers. This time it is the arbitrary way of changing electricity meters by private agencies roped in by UP Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL) across the state.

Noida and Greater Noida are no exceptions to complaints of harassment by authorities in the name of replacing old Chinese meters with new Indian ones. Residents of Noida complain that electricity meters, which were installed just a couple of years ago, are being replaced in households without any prior notice by the power distribution company.

Moreover, residents also allege that staff employed by the discom to install new meters throw all rules to the wind in going about their task. “A gang of over six barged into my house in the afternoon pestering me to change the meter. They had no ID cards to verify that they were from the electricity department,” said Anita Singh, a resident of Sector 41 where new meters are currently being installed.

Managing director of UPPCL, AP Mishra claimed that the corporation has issued specific guidelines to agencies in going about the task. “We have told executive engineers of all divisions to ensure that staff of agencies should carry an identity card. They are also advised not to barge into anyone house in an unauthorized way,” Mishra said.

However, experiences by consumers belie Mishra’s claims. “They climbed the boundary wall of my house and started shouting. They claimed my load was excess and a heavy fine would slapped lest we doled out some money to the visiting team,” said Ajay Kumar, a resident of Thakurganj in Lucknow. He later lodged a complaint with UPPCL authorities. “The complaint is yet to be addressed,” he said.

Though Noida discom officials had assured that ID cards would be provided to all junior technicians and workmen employed by them a month ago, complaints are abound about employees moving about without proofs of identification. The ID cards had been promised by the discom in September following a case in which a man, posing as a meter reader, had entered a house and allegedly raped a woman.

Residents in many other sectors in Noida got their meters changed by the discom in the past without any resistance because they were not charged anything. “A group of unknown people came to flats in my sector saying they had instructions from the top to change meters. However, the discom had not given any prior notice to us,” said Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra, a resident of Sector 25.

In several cases, meters are being replaced even in the absence of house owners. When the Sondhi family in Sector 29 returned from a 15-day sojourn of Bangalore, they saw the meter in their house already changed.

Consumers also complain that billing gets erroneous after installation of new meters. In Sector 29 last year, for instance, consumers received inflated or erroneous electricity bills for several months after installation of new meters.

The state-wide exercise to change meters comes more than a decade after UPPCL started installing them way back in 2001. Mishra said that the meters have lost their utility and therefore need to be changed. The phasing out process was started in January. Before this, the corporation had replaced the analogue meters with electronic ones claiming them to be tamper proof. They were installed with much fanfare for checking rampant power theft and pilferage.

UPPCL later claimed that the meters were not tamperproof and had failed to check power theft.

President of UP Rajya Vidyut Upbhogta Parishad, AK Verma, said that the Chinese embassy in a report sent to UPPCL in 2001 had said that meters were not proper. “However, despite that the authorities went ahead with the exercise to change the meters,” he alleged.

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