Many power consumers complained of receiving excessive bills for March and April after the government decided to issue estimated bills to all the power consumers after doing estimated meter readings based on the usage from the previous year.
The government power distribution companies said that they had to come up with a solution when their meter readers were not allowed to visit households amid fears that it may add to the coronavirus proliferation risks.
They said that their meter readers themselves were not willing to roam the streets during the pandemic either, making it difficult for them even to distribute the bills to the consumers.
In this context, the estimated power bills became a cause for concern.
Mokseda Khanam, a resident of an apartment building at Wireless Gate in Maghbazar, was handed a bill of Tk 8,300 for the last two months.
‘My average monthly bill never crossed more than Tk 3,500 during summer when I used AC,’ said Mokseda
‘I did not even run my AC because of the fear that low temperature may help spread the new coronavirus,’ said Mokseda.
All the residents of the flats in Mokseda’s apartment building had made similar complaints of having received power bills higher than usual.
Similar complaints came from residents of many other areas in the city such as Mohammadpur, Dhanmondi and Badda.
The power consumers were less likely to use AC in the past two months because of a weather phenomenon described unusual by the meteorologists.
They said that the humidity in the air were far less than usual making the environment feel cooler than it should be at the time of the year.
Bikash Dewan, managing director, Dhaka Power Distribution Company Limited, responsible for the distribution of power in the parts of capital including Maghbazar and Mohammadpur, said that there may be some discrepancies as the bills sent to the consumers were estimated.
‘We are not in a normal time. We are sending estimated bills and any discrepancies will be adjusted later,’ he said.
The coronavirus crisis hit Bangladesh hard with its large informal sector already out of operation and the vast majority of low-income people as well as the poor struggling to get make ends meet, let alone clear power bills were they were even charged extra.
The overall power consumption was far less than normal at the time with many industries remaining out of operation because of the crisis.
Many of the poor living in shanties across the capital, who live day to day, are already under pressure as their two months’ rent is due while some even roaming the streets begging to ensure daily meals.
The excessive bill problem has not been limited to the capital.
Residents of Jashore also complained about excessive electricity bills.
Rural Electrification Board chairman retired Major General Moin Uddin said that they billed a consumer in accordance with his or her consumption in the corresponding month last year.
‘There may be some discrepancies which will be adjusted eventually,’ he said.
Though all consumers received estimated bills, Moin believes that a possible reason behind higher bills could be that people’s consumption increased because of their long hours of stay at home for the public holiday.
As the coronavirus crisis broke out in early March the government said that the power consumers can delay paying their bills for February, March and April without facing any late penalties.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh joined with other civil society bodies at the end of April demanded that the government reduced utility bills to enable people to spend more on healthcare and food.
They said that the people were already bearing the responsibility of the government’s wrong energy policy that caused the power bill to increase eight times in the last ten years.
Bangladesh has about 3.64 crore power consumers and most of the household consumers are covered by REB.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Country