The Siddaramaiah-led Congress government’s move to fulfil the promises made in the election manifesto has “shocked” electricity bill collectors — albeit in a different way.
The Congress guaranteed the voters it would implement a set of welfare schemes the day it assumed power.
The Cabinet meeting on 20 May, the day on which Siddaramaiah and nine others took the oath, even gave an in-principle nod to five guarantees — including the Gruhajyothi Bhagya.
The Gruhajyothi Bhagya scheme promised 200 units of free electricity to every household in the state.
“I have given in-principle approval for the implementation of the five guarantees. These guarantees will be implemented soon after the next Cabinet meeting,” Siddaramaiah told reporters soon after the meeting.
Related: In first meeting, Siddaramaiah Cabinet approves 5 guarantees
Gopi, a bill collector, was among the first to receive the Gruhajyothi jolt.
“When I went to Siddapura village, the people there refused to accept the electricity bills. They said the Congress has announced that the power will be free up to 200 units and refused to pay,” he told South First.
A video of the incident went viral on social media, adding credence to the bill collector’s words.
“The villagers didn’t even accept the bills. They refused to listen to us. However, we convinced a few people and made them accept the bill,” said Gopi.
The newly-formed @INCKarnataka govt promised to implement the 5 guarantees to voters in the poll manifesto.
Citing these promises, a few villagers refused to pay their electricity bills in the Chitradurga district. A woman also refused to pay her bus fare. https://t.co/uW926n4av5 pic.twitter.com/ErOYpcqAvR
— South First (@TheSouthfirst) May 25, 2023
Gopi’s experience was not an aberration. An employee of the Siddapura Gram Panchayat shared a similar experience with South First.
“Ever since the Assembly election results were announced, the people of Siddapura village panchayat limits are not accepting the electricity bills,” he said on condition of anonymity.
“We tried to convince them that no bill would be issued once the government issued an order. We requested them to pay until it was implemented. But they would not listen. It has become a headache to us,” he said.
One of the five guarantees promised by the new government is free bus rides for women passengers.
The video of a woman refusing to pay the bus fare citing the new government’s promises was also circulated on social media.
Related: Congress announces 200 units free electricity if voted to power
And fake news, too…
Even as such incidents were reported, fake news — mostly promoted by Opposition sections — added to the confusion.
A viral video showed a man, later identified as Chandrashekhar Hiremath of Kukanapalli, yelling at Gulbarga Electricity Supply Company (GESCOM) employees that would not foot the bill.
He was also seen verbally abusing and thrashing the employees, who visited the man’s house to collect the pending dues.
The viral video’s narrative was that the scuffle was subsequent to the Congress government’s guarantees.
In fact, Chandrashekhar had pending bills of over ₹9,000 for years. The power supply to his house was disconnected after he failed to pay the bills.
However, Hiremath illegally restored power and assaulted officials when questioned. The Munirabad police later arrested him on a complaint from the GESCOM staff.