As Arvind Kejriwal kickstarts his political campaign by raking up the issue of 'inflated' electricity bills in the national capital, Rediff.com's Priyanka speaks to several Delhi residents to know their take.
Residents of Tigri colony near Khanpur area in South Delhi eagerly came to the streets on Saturday afternoon when members of India Against Corruption led by Arvind Kejriwal, accompanied by hordes of journalists, visited the locality.
People gathered in groups, and the entire neighbourhood had descended on to the streets. Many of them were holding electricity bills in their hands.
Activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal spoke to a labourer in the colony, whose electricity connection had been cut, as he could not pay the bill amount. And after visiting the labourer, Kejriwal has in many ways kickstarted his political campaign.
Kejriwal has been protesting against inflated electricity bills in the national capital, and has been critical of the Sheila Diskhit government for handing out inflated electricity bills to residents.
But even in this locality, high electricity bills are not a unique problem. Every person staying here has complains against the Delhi government.
"All the money I have is spent on paying the electricity bill. How will I mange my house?" asks 78-year-old Lal Chand. He and his wife Marvi Devi live in the Tigri colony in a single room. Chand works as a daily labourer and is able to earn about Rs. 3,000 a month. But his health is failing and he doesn't know how long he can continue to do manual labour.
They have one television set and one fan in their house. Their electricity bill has mounted to Rs 8410 in the last two months period. "We rarely watch television. There is only one fan and two lights in our house. How can we get such huge bill?" asks his wife.
Their electricity bill used to be approximately Rs 3,000 until last year. "We don't have the money to pay the bill," the couple sound dismayed.
Kamlesh, 55, a housewife stays with her three sons and daughter-in-laws and the family shares four rooms among themselves. The outstanding amount of her electricity bill is Rs. 28,000.
She had received a bill of Rs 18,000 four months ago, and she was able to pay only a part of it. The bill for the next two months was Rs 15,000.
"We can either live and eat or pay the electricity bill," she complains. All three of her sons work as manual labourers. Most of residents here work manual laborers in Khanpur market or the industrial area.
Kamlesh too complains that the electricity bill has grown by three times in the past six months alone. Her neighbour Chaman Devi agrees. Devi complains that after the electricity meter in her house broke down the BSES personnel installed a 5-kw meter in her house, without her knowledge or permission.
"They put heavy meters and then the bill is so high," she complains. Her electricity bill reads Rs. 8,500. "We use electricity carefully," she explains, "If we switch on the water motor, then we switch off the fan first," she says.
But none of it seems to work for them. The residents also claim that they were being pressured to pay the electricity bills, which they believe are hugely inflated and flawed.
"And if we don't pay the bills," Chaman Devi tells, "they come and try to scare us."
"They had come with four police vans to ask us to pay the bills a few days ago," she complains.
The residents were also asked to pay the bill by submitting a cheque. "We don't have bank accounts because we don't have money to put in the bank. How will we pay the bills?" she asks.
Another resident joins in. Mona Devi claims that she was been slapped with an electricity bill of Rs. 2000 for a room, which she says remained unused and unoccupied for the bill period.
"The room was locked up. How can they send me a bill of Rs. 2000? How will I pay?" she asks.