The big switch: Suburban consumers dumping R-Infra for Tata Power

The long-simmering war between Reliance Infrastructure and Tata Power Corp, which both supply electricity to Mumbai's suburban areas, came into sharper focus as about 1,000 families in the Bandra-Khar belt, who were so far R-Infra customers, unanimously decided this week to switch to Tata Power.

Apart from R-Infra charging higher tariffs than Tata Power, residents also allege that the electronic power meters recently installed by R-Infra are faulty, and generate inflated bills. Aftab Siddiqui, chairperson of the 33rd Road Advanced Locality Management (ALM), said, "At least 30 cooperative housing societies, which have more than 1,000 members, had a meeting on 6 October, where they decided to discontinue the services of R-Infra. The residents will be completing the formalities in a few days. Reliance tried to bully us into installing those flawed electronic meters and this is a fitting reply."

Residents have alleged that the power tariff of R-Infra has increased the bills considerably. Suburban resident Shiv Malhotra said, "Bill amounts have been fluctuating a lot. One month, I got a bill of Rs5,500, while for another month I was sent a bill of Rs13,000."

R-Infra says the meter replacement drive has been mandated by a union government order. A senior R-Infra official said, "All meters comply with the accuracy range specified in Central Electricity Authority (installation and operation of metersr Regulations 2006, and are of BIS standards. All the electro-mechanical meters are replaced by electronic meters in compliance with the judgment issued by appellate tribunal for electricity, and it is mandatory going by CEA directives."

A Reliance spokesperson added, "An agency appointed by the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory commission has certified that all electronic meters installed by R-Infra are within the specified accuracy range. Also, it is mandatory to replace the old electro-mechanical meters by electronic ones."

Another resident Sunil Wagh, residing in another Mujmbai susburb claimed that his power bill went up by Rs3,000 after the electronic meter was installed.
''We are a family of five staying in a 1BHK house. Our bills have gone up from Rs2,000 to Rs5,000 after installing the meters. So we decided to shift to Tata Power.''

Siddiqui claimed that Rinfra's high-handed attitude in dealing with complaints have made its customers wary. "If they haven't resolved those complaints, how can we let them install these meters?" he asked.

Tata Power officials are going to compute the deposit amount for prospective consumers on the basis of their past usage, according to a report.