By Janarjan Khatri,Sarlahi, Feb. 3: Around 500 families in Ward No. 11 of Barahathawa Municipality of Sarlahi district have been living in darkness for the past two months as the electricity supply to the area has been cut down. The power was cut by the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) in Hirapur and Khorkatti villages since the cooperative failed to pay huge dues.
The locals have been using electric power through the Bisheshwornath Community Rural Electric Cooperative since 2010. However, since December 13, 2022, there has been a complete blackout.
The locals have been bound to visit neighbouring villages or reach Barahathawa Bazaar only to charge their mobile phones. At night, families use kerosene lamps during dinner and to help children study. While the cooperative’s employees visited houses and collected money for electric bills by reading the household meter, the NEA prepared the bill based on a joint electric meter-reader for all houses which should be paid by the cooperative.
Meanwhile, the cooperative officials informed that they couldn’t pay the dues since the NEA demanded payment of remaining amount citing that the joint metre was functioning properly for the past two-three months.
“By December, 2021, we paid all amounts as per the electricity bill by the NEA. However, the NEA inspected the joint meter after taking it to Kathmandu. The NEA then provided a new bill of dues citing that the meter was malfunctioning for some time,” said Ram Krishna Chalise, vice-chairman of the cooperative. According to Chalise, several consumers have denied paying the remaining dues, and we don’t have money to pay for others. Chalise assured that the cooperative hadn’t performed any misconduct financially.
“There were meters in 317 houses. There are only 25-30 houses that pay the bills regularly. Since people didn’t pay for several months, the current situation has arrived,” said Chalise. “I have receipts for all the bills. However, I have not been able to utilise the electricity services. It is injustice,” said Raghunath Mahato, a local.
Alike Mahato, Lok Prasad Parajuli and Umesh Das also stressed that they paid the bills but were now forced to stay in darkness. “Electricity should be cut in households which didn’t pay the bills,” they all echoed. Meanwhile, the Ward No. 11 office of Barahathawa has also been unable to perform digital works due to lack of electricity. “There is no electricity and internet. We have been sending service seekers to the municipality office for several works. The ward office only performs hand-written works recently,” said Dhirendra Ray, the ward secretary.
Even earlier, the NEA had reached the village to cut the power supply due to inability of paying the dues. Locals used to collect money to resume the service. However, the power cut since December 2022 has not been resumed yet.
Citing that the cooperative system had affected several families despite paying the bills regularly, the authorities were planning to install meters under the NEA itself.
“The cooperative has been unable to manage the service properly. We now plan to supply all electricity services through the NEA,” said Nabaraj Rai, ward chairman of Ward No. 11. According to Rai, they plan to install the meters as soon as possible to resume electricity services in the area.
“The municipality has agreed to pay Rs. 1.3 million dues to the NEA. The process has started to merge the cooperative under the NEA and to install the new meters,” said Chhotelal Yadav, supervisor at the NEA’s Barahathawa Distribution Centre.
There was a total of Rs. 2.3 million dues under the cooperative. The locals collected Rs. 1 million and the municipal council meeting decided to pay the rest. “We are filling the forms to install new meters. We will install them at the earliest once the data collection process concludes,” said Yadav.