Kalimpong, March 3: The West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) today said it would not disconnect connections of commercial establishments in the hills for now following a meeting with GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung in Darjeeling.
The state power distribution utility, however, made it clear that dues accumulated over the three years between April 2008 and July 2011 would not be waived.
Consumers in the hills, both domestic and commercial, had not paid their electricity bills for 39 months heeding the call of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, which had launched a non-cooperation movement against the state between 2008 and 2011, demanding Gorkhaland.
People were also asked not to pay telephone bills and sales tax.
Electricity dues of Rs 72 crore, Rs 20 crore in telephone dues and Rs 10 crore for sales tax piled up because of non-payment.
“We have decided not to cut the power connections. The modalities of realising the dues will be worked out. We will send a proposal (regarding realising the dues) to our board of directors and after getting its approval we will start recovering the dues,” said A.K. Sinha, WBSEDCL zonal manager, over the phone from Darjeeling.
In January, WBSEDCL had served notices to hotels and other commercial establishments, asking them to clear the dues by January 29 or have their supply would be disconnected. Power supply to few hotels in Kalimpong were snapped on Friday morning but restored later in the evening.
“We had met the GTA chief executive on Saturday to seek his intervention. Today’s meeting was fruitful as the WBSEDCL has decided not to disconnect supply. We want a complete waiver of the dues accumulated during the agitation period,” said Sanjogita Subba, the president of the Hotel and Restaurant Owners’ Association of Kalimpong (Horak), who attended today’s meeting.
Sinha, however, said: “There is no question of a waiver.”
He said issues like late payment surcharge might be discussed later.
GTA sources said the hill body could write to the state government and to seek a waiver for hotels and other tourism-related businesses. “The hoteliers have sought relief,” said the source.
GTA balm on traders’ power bill dues
Statesman news service
Darjeeling, 3 March: The Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) has sent a letter to the authority concerned over the electricity dues that accumulated during the non-co-operation movement led by the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM), an official of the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) said today.
Around Rs 72 crore has accumulated in the three Hill sub-divisions in dues for the period of April 2008 to July 2011, the time when the GJMM led the non-cooperation movement, demanding Gorkhaland. In January this year, hotels in Kalimpong had been asked to clear the dues by WBSEDCL.
GTA chief and GJMM president Bimal Gurung today held a meeting with officials of the WBSEDCL and representatives of various business associations of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong at the GTA head office in Lalkothi.
“The GTA chief has said he has sent a letter to the authority concerned regarding the outstanding dues and that he will act as per the response the authority sends back–whether the bills should be paid or waived off,” the zonal manager of WBSEDCL, AK Sinha, said.
President of the Hotel and Restaurant Owners’ Association of Kalimpong, Sanjogita Subba, said around 45 members in his association have dues ranging from Rs 2 lakh to over Rs 5 lakh. “We cannot pay such an amount even if the authority decides to cut off electricity lines, an action that will have an adverse effect on tourism,” Subba said.
GTA meets power dept officials, hotel owners over dues issue
Darjeeling, 3 Mar 2014: Gorkhaland Territorial Administration officials today held a meeting with the state electricity board and the hotel owners’ association to sort out the issue of pending bills.
More than Rs100 crore has reportedly accumulated in dues due to non-payment of bills during the statehood agitation by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha from 2008 to 2011. The GJM had asked people not to pay their electricity and telephone bills along with taxes as part of the non-cooperation movement against the state government.
However, after peace was brokered and the GTA agreement signed in July 2011, the GJM asked the people to start paying their dues, except the ones that had accumulated over the four-year agitation.
The GJM had even included a clause in the GTA deal seeking a waiver of telephone and electricity bills accrued during the statehood movement. On several occasions, the ruling party even took up the issue with both the state and central governments.
But the state electricity board refused to budge and has started billing allegedly excessive amounts in order to make up for the loss. Home owners, commercial establishments and traders have been receiving notifications from the electricity board asking them to pay up their dues, while power lines of several consumers have already been disconnected.
GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung today held a meeting with the electricity board zonal manger and hotel owners at Lalkothi to discuss the issue. “We have been told by the GTA executive that a letter will be sent to us and other concerned authorities soon. We have also decided to suspend the process of disconnecting lines of defaulters till we get a response from the GTA,” said AK Sinha, the zonal manager.
However, hotel owners fear the decision of the electricity board to disconnect lines would negatively impact tourism prospects in the hills. “The tourist season will start next month and if the electricity board disconnects lines, tourists will be highly inconvenienced. This will not augur well for the tourism industry on which the entire hills depend,” pointed out Sanjugita Subba, president of the Hotel Owners’ Association of Kalimpong.
She was also of the view that as the bills had accumulated during the statehood agitation the hotels were not at fault. “We were willing to pay our bills, but could not due to the agitation as offices were closed. Therefore, it cannot be our fault and we demand a waiver of our pending amounts,” she said.
Neither the GTA chief executive nor other officials could be contacted for comment on the issue, but sources did confirm about the day’s meeting. (EOIC)
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