Illuminating Guptapada village in Odisha
It’s been over 11 days, our adopted village has no electric supply. It’s like dark days for them and life almost comes to standstill as soon sun sets, disrupting many of their daily activities. Children are not able to study properly in these exam days, the drinkable water supply stopped forcing them to intake from contaminated sources, and cannot charge phones.
We were told the previous week villagers had gone to electricity office and Panchayat to enquire the reason and were informed their transformer damaged (burnt) and that it will be rectified only when outstanding dues of all consumers are paid in full. Since it was a huge amount for each one, they were clueless on what to do.
We reached the village on 23rd Feb’18 and spoken to few #SHG women and found there were more issues and the electricity situation in the village had been highly erratic in the past too.
Women told there’s no proper metering system at many houses, bill does not come monthly, collection officer comes once in 4 months, few BPL family ends up paying INR 400 per month due to wrong meter reading (even if they have just two bulbs in a two room house).
Looking at the long standing problem, when we asked women to come to meet Sarpanch at Panchayath alongwith our #CO, few agreed. Upon calling Sarpanch, he quickly came to meet us at our center. According to him, 9 families out of 33 had no dues outstanding. So we requested it is not proper to cut electricity of the entire village. Our CO also mentioned the water issue and student’s difficulties due to lack of electricity.
On the third day, we along with our community organizer Urmila and AServe Coordinator Asith, went and met the area JE, of FEDCO (franchisee of governmentt electricity board). He showed us a huge bill per person in village accumulated for many months running upto 20k. We tried to reason with him how villagers will pay this and why didn’t it was a monthly effort etc.
Our next destination then was district divisional office, we met the head person Mr Manoj, by designation the AGM & Executive Engineer, CESU(Government Electricity Board). He heard the concerns and was of great assistance. He immediately called relevant offices and ordered installation of a new transformer with immediate effect. And connected our CO to that department. This divisional head also assured to reassess all outstanding and will apply waiver to possible extent.
Then we discussed strategies by which this overdue condition does not happen again. He called area collection officer and instructed for future and to solve the other hanging issues. He seeked help from us in recovering some marginal amount from villagers. He was impressed to hear that our community organizer will initiate it and will conduct awareness campaign at village for timely payment and in bringing problematic issues to notice. Our CO who spoke assertively at all offices, plans to conduct a ‘gram sabha’ (community meeting) where these officials will be invited. He also agreed to our suggestion that field officers must seek the opinion of villagers and both parties should collectively solve the issues.
Now electricity is back in Guptapada village!!!