Monday, October 3, 2022

Power recharge woesof the common man

In the recent past the Power Department attempted to explain the lengthy Recharge Code for the new meter system in response to some complaints. I don’t exactly remember the contents, but the department threw the responsibility on the system manufacturer. With the commotion we hoped the problem would soon be resolved. I recently recharged (1st August 2022) a domestic phase and was pleasantly surprised to find the status quo maintained.
I first recharged my new meter system on 27th April 2021. It had a 20-digit Recharge Code, which was bad. Compare this with the mobile users of India. The country probably has more than a billion mobile numbers in use and all the mobiles have 10-digit numbers. One Time Passwords (OTP) for various purposes range from 4 to 8 digits. Millions of people must be receiving OTP’s every day.
The ante has been upped. We now have 120 numbers, 6 asterisks [*], and 6 number symbols [#] (132 in all) to punch every time to update the balance after recharge. A relative informed me that one mistake and we have to start the process all over again. To add to our woes, a slight delay in punching the next button sends one back to the starting point. Even a 100-meter runner tripping midway is not sent back to the start line. Moreover, these are not bank transactions where hackers are patiently waiting for any delay to loot an account.
It looks like the Meter System manufacturer has the Government of Nagaland (GoN) in a stranglehold. Why did the GoN opt for this company? Is it the only company in India? Did the Government of India dump it on us? It is obvious this company has some of the most inept engineers on its rolls. Instead of an 8- or 10-digit number (at the most) these people have given us a 132-button-punching exercise. Most people must be going through this ordeal every month.
The reason for the new meter system, as explained by the Power Department, was to check power theft, non-payment of bills, etc. I am not sure if power pilferage will stop, even with the new system, unless areas are raided without warning. As long as the department grandly announces dates-for-raids for illegal connections in specified zones, matters will not improve. An illegal user would remove all connections early morning of the announced date, and hook on after the inspection team leaves. Yes, they would suffer a few hours inconvenience of non-availability of power. But don’t we all, due to load-shedding, during heavy rains and strong winds, etc.? This is the reason power pilferers are the happiest lot in Nagaland. As for the non-payment of electricity bills by various government departments, establishments, individuals, etc. within the stipulated period, why does the department not cut off the power supply? Believe me, they will come running to clear up their dues, of course if one has the grit to resolve such matters. But if we are intimidated by guns and business suits, then the matter ends there. If this 132-digit punching torture, akin to the exercise schedule of Mike Tyson is to remain, dear Power Department, please give us back our humble old meter boxes.
Prof. GT Thong, Lower Agri Colony, Kohima, (glen2t03@yahoo.com)