During the lockdown (I have lost count of the number) the meter readings stopped.
The power utility company in India decided to bill everyone based on the reading for the month of March 2019 and said they would make the necessary adjustments when the situation improved. But the delayed readings pushed customers into a higher tariff bracket.
Soon the newspapers in India were full of letters of protest from consumers who complained of outrageous bills. The utility company quickly countered with the argument that the bills were high as people were confined to their homes and so there was higher consumption.
But the consumers were not satisfied with this explanation as there were instances of shops remaining closed throughout the lockdowns and yet receiving huge bills for premises that didn’t use any electricity for that protracted period.
It soon became a habit to switch these off even if we knew we would be returning to the room in a little bit. The only time we were allowed to leave a fan on was if there was a dog involved. It would be cruel to leave our beloved pet in a room with the fan switched off
As the protests grew louder and public interest litigations were filed, it was decided to set up a high court bench to review the cases.
A committee has been constituted to look into grievances of consumers. The Telengana Energy Minister chipped in with a solution by saying that the bills could be paid in instalments. This doesn’t really solve the issue of the high bills.
In a time such as the one we all are going through, this is yet another blow to the average household coping with so many restrictions, whether it is less pay or the rise in prices of essential commodities.
Growing up, we were always very mindful of not wasting electricity even though our power bills were low as we lived in army accommodation. But our parents were always telling us off for forgetting to switch off lights or fans when we left a room.
It soon became a habit to switch these off even if we knew we would be returning to the room in a little bit. The only time we were allowed to leave a fan on was if there was a dog involved. It would be cruel to leave our beloved pet in a room with the fan switched off.
Ingrained in Gen Z
Sadly, this habit of conserving electricity has not been ingrained in the younger generation or at least the young people I know. A nephew saunters downstairs and the first thing his mum asks him is whether he has switched off lights, fan and AC.
He looks at her indignantly and says he’s going back upstairs very soon. From his tone one would conclude that the act of switching off requires the expenditure of too much energy. This from the son who spends an hour or two working out. Two hours later, he is still downstairs, having completely forgotten about the electricity being wasted upstairs.
He is in the middle of a long telephone conversation and as soon as he sees his mum and her disapproving expression, he quickly tells her that he is talking to his boss. It doesn’t strike him that he could as easily go back upstairs to continue the conversation. It is a mobile phone after all.
I know that I became much more aware about energy consumption after I started paying my own bills! Those habits instilled in childhood have stood me in good stead.
I am careful about usage and never find excuses such as telling myself that since I will be returning to a room, I need not bother switching off lights, fans or the AC.
The last one is what makes your bills shoot to dizzying heights and if you live in a place where it feels like it is perpetual summer, you are in trouble.
So, expend a little energy and let switching off become a habit and you won’t have to worry about being hit by escalating bills.
Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India