New Delhi: Living in government-alloted flats in Tilak Vihar, they have received free electricity for almost three decades but now the 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims have been asked to apply for new connections to get uninterrupted supply.
Some 500 families in the area say they are being "forced" to apply for electricity connections by power distributor BSES Rajdhani.
The families claim that they were promised free power by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi as part of rehabilitation of victims of November 84 carnage. However, they have nothing to show on record.
BSES on its part says that they did not make any promise and people must get new connections for uninterrupted supply.
There are 944 janta flats, which used to get power through a 1000KV transformer which burst on September 6. BSES has for the time being installed a mobile transformer of 600KV, saying there was no point investing in an area which gives them zero revenue.
The residents of this area are now enduring long power cuts of at least 16 hours a day.
According to sources in BSES, the distribution company suffers an annual loss of Rs five crore because of non-payment by consumers in this area.
"Life has become hell. My children`s studies are getting affected during exam times. What do we do? We get power only for storing water in the morning and evening. We can`t sleep properly. We don`t get power during nights. These last 30 days have been terrible," said Rupinder Kaur.
Another elderly lady, who lost her husband during the riots, said the government should first fulfil all its promises, then "we are ready to have metres and pay bills".
A BSES official said all their efforts to convince residents to get the meters installed have failed.
"It`s not that we want to harass people. The annual loss that we incur is more than five crore. We keep talking to them, ...But there is no positive response," the official, who is involved in the talks with residents, said.
"Earlier, there were only bulbs or fans in their rooms but now they have air conditioners too. People use heaters. Due to overload, the transformer gets burst early...We surely don`t want to harass them," he said.
Ajeet Singh, who was three-years old when he lost his father in riots, said they want an assurance from authorities that they will not have to pay arrears and will get subsidy.
"After my father`s death, I lost my mother in 1986. I could not study properly and don`t earn much. You know how costly power is. Unless we are given in written assurance that we will not have to pay bills of previous years I am not going to get a meter installed in my house," he said.
Atma Singh Lubana, an activist in the area, said he has written to the government that they be given subsidy.
"I don`t have anything to show but Rajiv Gandhi had announced that victims will get free power. We will convince people to get meters installed if we get some subsidy.We want there should be no charge on consumption of 1-200 units and Rs 2.50 should be levied for units from 201-500," he said.
However, the BSES official said, "There are no government guidelines that they will not have to pay. And even if there were, it was the government, which made the promise not us, so let government pay it. If subsidy has to be given, it has to come from the government and not from us".
A BSES spokesperson, who did not wish to be named, said the city government has cleared all arrears and told them they can now legally install metres in that area. He cited example of Peeragarhi, where victims have already got connections.
It is not that power meters were never installed in this colony. The authorities did install them in February 1985 against the flat allotment letters but took away those two years later for repairing and never re-installed them.
From 1987-88 till the power distribution was privatised in 2002 by the Delhi government, power consumption has been free of cost for the riot victims.
But when private players began power reforms in the state, they started making efforts to bring colonies such as Tilak Vihar under their fold.
BSES organised a camp in 2004-05 with the help of an NGO, Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council, and urged the people to get metres installed.
While some agreed and paid Rs 1700 with the forms, some people defied. However, BSES wrote them letters after some time, stating that they could not install metres.
When asked, BSES official had no answer. "I dont know why those letters were sent," the official said.
Kulbeer Singh of the Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council said they were willing to help again. "These power cuts are wrong. But at the same time, we want that power theft is stopped. BSES should give some relaxation for new connections".
The BSES official said they were ready to waive Rs 3000, which is charged as installation fee.
"We charge Rs 4200 for new connection. We can help them in getting 3000 off. I can also assure them that if they agree to pay bills regularly for one year, I will help them get approval that they will have to pay nothing for the past," he said.