Pre-paid power and gas consumers fear disruption during shutdown
Many of the pre-paid power and gas consumers belonging to the low-income group, who are unable to recharge enough to get through the 10-day shutdown which would end in April 4, are afraid that they might lose their connections any moment.
On Saturday, about 20 people gathered at the local office of Dhaka Electric Supply Company in Bhatara to recharge their meters only to face various technical difficulties.
DESCO agents at the office tried to help but could not solve all of their problems.
‘I need to recharge my meter today. I am almost out of my credit,’ said Mohiuddin, a resident of Bhatara.
DESCO managing director retired Brig Gen Shahid Sarwar said that their clients in Bhatara are mostly low-income people who purchase power almost on a daily basis.
‘Our agents are operating even during this crisis and they should be able to help the low-income group of people,’ he said.
But finding agents during the countrywide lockdown became hard as people have largely retreated to their homes to fight the probable spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The government announced general holiday from March 26 to April 4, requesting people not to come out of their homes unless there was an emergency to keep the novel virus from spreading.
The power distribution companies through short message service, advertisements published in news media and announcements posted on Facebook urged pre-paid consumers to recharge enough to cope with the emergency situation.
But many low-income people recharge on a daily basis as their consumption depends on their day-to-day income.
There are 33 lakh power consumers using prepaid meters across Bangladesh and 2.13 lakh gas consumers using prepaid meters in Dhaka.
The government has announced that over 3 crore of its post-paid power and gas consumers would be ensured uninterrupted supplies even if they failed to pay bills for February and March.
The post-paid power and gas consumers will be spared penalty for delayed submission of power bills until June.
Power Cell director general Mohammad Hossain claimed that no pre-paid power users would experience power cut until April 4 even if they run out of credit.
He said that smart prepaid meter users were able to recharge online so there should be no problem for them, but pre-paid card holders might experience some problems.
Half the pre-paid meter users are card holders, according to the power cell.
Dhaka Power Distribution Company managing director Bikash Dewan said that they had teams prepared to go and solve problems of pre-paid card holders at their homes.
‘We have advertised phone numbers through which the service can be accessed,’ he said.
Mohammad Faizar Rahman, project director, pre-paid gas meter installation project, said that they decided to continue to supply gas worth Tk 2,000 to pre-paid users on consideration of the emergency situation.
There are 2.13 lakh pre-paid gas consumers in Dhaka under Titas, he said.
The post-paid gas consumers would be allowed to pay their gas bills without any penalty for four successive months starting from February in June he said.
Such promises did not make Rashad Ahamad’s life any easier. A Mohammadpur resident, he had his power cut in the afternoon of March 26, the first day of the countrywide general holiday, after the credit ran out.
He had to walk 40 minutes in the deserted streets of Dhaka to find an agent to recharge. (Source: New Age)