As a society, we are known to be hard bargainers. From housewives who haggle with vegetable vendors over every single rupee they shell out on tomatoes and onions to prospective home buyers who negotiate for months with real estate agents for saving just a few thousand rupees on a new home to white collared workers screaming for meager appraisals every year, we always bargain to ensure a fair deal.
But when it comes to government services, we hardly question even the harshest injustice meted out to us. For the last several days, most parts of Tamil Nadu have been doomed to darkness with power cuts now crossing all tolerable limits. Yet, neither the housewife nor the businessman or even industrialists, who suffer most, have questioned the rationale behind the electricity board producing a tariff bill every two months.
The Citizens Charter spelt out by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board to ensure quality service claims that the 50,000-odd workers in the department strive to ‘render the highest standards of service to you’. Now, that the service has depleted to just a few hours of electricity despite paying tariffs on time month after month, the rationale behind paying electricity bills is now gradually being questioned by the public.
Last week, residents of Kumarapalayam in Erode district had staged a one-day bandh in their town to condemn the huge power cuts that were disrupting their lives. Organisers of the protest, Kongu Weavers Association, had stated that they would stop paying electricity bills if the power cuts continued.
“It actually makes a lot of sense,” says Rajesh M, a textile businessman from Tirupur. “When we do not receive the service that we are entitled to, why should we pay tariffs on time? While we are paying only the amount of electricity we consume, we apply for a power connection and use state power resources only because we are assured of uninterrupted power supply,” he says.
Businessmen like Rajesh who are worst affected point out that it is about time, electricity consumers formed a forum to fight for their rights. “Like we have activists for conserving the environment and for human rights, we need power activists who will fight with the government to ensure us a good deal. If we do not get power when we need it, we should pay the tariff when we are needed to,” says Hariharan G from P. N. Pudur, a software engineer in a city-based firm.
Housewives, who are known for their hard bargaining skills, should probably take charge and use their negotiating skills for getting us a good bargain with our power tariff bills.