Jal Board blames meters, consumers pay huge bills

Residents of CR park face inflated water bills despite promises of 20,000 free litres per month from the AAP government

Sandwip Ray, 52, is an engineer who lives with his 75-year-old mother in his two-storey house in C Block, Chittaranjan Park. His mother lives on the first floor, while Ray and his wife reside on the ground floor.

A resident of the South Delhi neighbourhood all his life, Ray says that the cost of living here has always been quite high, but in the last few years, it has variably come down because of the subsidies they receive on their electricity and water bills ever since the AAP government came to power in Delhi.

As part of the scheme in 2014, wherein 20,000 litres of water would be exempted from payment to all existing users with a Delhi Jal Board connection, Ray like many others received zero water bills for the past six years. Ray has two separate connections, one for his mother and one for himself.

But he was in for a rude shock when he received the September 2020 bill for his mother’s connection. The amount was Rs 13,957. But the surprising part was that the bill for the connection to the ground floor was zero, like all other bills of the previous months.

In the bill for October 2020, another Rs 697 was added, and the total outstanding bill came at Rs 14,655.

Ray finds this whole ordeal quite ridiculous. “My mother lives alone on the first floor, and how much water do you think she uses that her bill is close to Rs 15,000,” he says. He adds that it is he who uses more water than his mother, and yet his bill is still zero.

Ray is not alone facing the situation. Multiple residents of one of South Delhi’s most well-known neighbourhoods have faced the same issue. 62-year-old Kirpal Mehta has received a bill of Rs 29,000 – whereas he too like Ray received bills worth zero before October.

To put things into context, the DJB charges no cost for consumptions upto 20,000 litres. For consumption between 20,000-30,000 litres the charge is Rs 21.97 per 1,000 litres with a service charge of Rs 219.62. Customers with usage in excess of 30,000 litres pay Rs 36.61 per 1,000 litres with a service charge of Rs 292.82.

So, for a bill of Rs 29,000, Mehta has to have consumed more than one lakh litres of water, a number which is close to impossible.

Twenty-six families of the C Block, Chittaranjan Park, including those of Mehta and Ray signed a petition under their RWA, and sent it to the DJB for inspection. “I received several complaints from the residents complaining of inflated water bills. Some even said that their bills were in excess of Rs 40,000,” claims Amitabha Chatterjee, RWA secretary.

“I have come in contact with several Delhi Jal Board officials, and while they have acknowledged that there is a problem from their end, they have still not sent any official to check what exactly the problem is,” he adds.

When asked if the DJB has provided a solution, he says that they have asked them not to pay the bills until the matter is resolved. Most of the residents did not pay the bill for the month of October, but again the inflated bills came the next month adding generously to the already outstanding amount of October.

For Rahul Guha, 31, who lives with his wife in C Block, the fear of getting his connection cut is forcing him to pay even the inflated bills. “We received bills of around Rs 4,000 for the past few months, but in spite of complaining personally to the DJB and adhering to every rule that the officials asked us, inflated bills are coming, even though me and my wife hardly stay home throughout the day because of our jobs”.

Fearing that their water connections would be cut, they have caved in, paying even the inflated bills.

Like Rahul, most residents have tried contacting the DJB , but to no avail. “We are still awaiting a solution from them”, says Amitabha Chatterjee.

This, however, is not the first case where inflated bills have been reported in Delhi. Early in the month of October, the DJB ordered meter image audits to rectify the large number of complaints from around the city of inflated water bills.

In an order issued, the DJB even issued warnings to their meter reading agents saying that if they find any discrepancies their licences would be cancelled.

However, despite such warnings, three months down the line, the situation is still the same in Chittaranjan Park.

We tried reaching out to multiple senior officials in the DJB, but none agreed to comment on the situation in detail. Their unanimous answer was “There must be something wrong with the meter readings”.

(Cover: Credit – Getty Images)

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