Hothkel residents owe millions of afghanis in unpaid power bills
KABUL (Pajhwok): Around 3,000 families in Hotkhel locality of capital Kabul owe millions of afghanis to the power utility in unpaid electricity bills and some families have extended electricity to their homes illegally.
Da Afghanistan Breshna Shirkat (DABS) officials acknowledge the problem and say talks with elders of Hothkhel area are underway to find a solution to the issue.
Non-payment of electricity dues
Pajhwok learnt that residents of the locality have long been refusing to pay their electricity bills amounting to millions of afghanis and some families enjoyed illegal power connections from the main supply lines.
Farid Hothkel, deputy head of the local council in Hothkhel area in the 9th police district, told Pajhwok Afghan News as many as 3,000 families lived in A and B sections of Hodkhel and only 2,000 families had installed electricity meters and 1,000 others used illegal methods to consume electricity.
According Farid, five years ago, the entire village consumed electricity worth 600,000 afghanis to 700,000 afs per month and the consumption might be increased.
Based on the calculation, the five years electricity charges could be accounted as 29 million afghanis, which has not been paid to DABS.
Who is to be blamed?
Farid Hotkhel blamed DABS for the unpaid electricity dues. “There is electricity in Hothkehl, but there is no system. Most people have not paid electricity bills over the past five years,” he said.
“The bill collection system is not carried out in a proper manner, we have not been provided with printed bills so how can we pay the arrears,” he lamented.
He said some people had received electricity bills after five years and they were not in a position to pay them lump sum.
Naseer Ahmad Hotak, a resident of the locality, said people could not pay electricity charges until they were handed over the bills a notebook format.
He did not know when the notebook changed into a sheet format, but since then people have not received the bills properly and people also have ignored the matter.
Naseer Ahmad claimed they referred the issue to DABS and told them they were not receiving bills but the response was negative most of the time.
Haji Mohammad Rafiq, another resident and elder, complained about the prolonged delay in electricity bills distribution to families and said electricity problems were huge in their area. He said he might not be able to pay the charges of five years at once.
Meanwhile, DABS spokesman Wahidullah Tawhidi acknowledged the problem and complained DABS officials were often beaten and tortured whenever they visited the area to distribute electricity bills.
“Some friends in Hothkehl complain they do not receive bills in-time. When somebody gets illegal electricity connection, how can he receive bill.”
Mohammad Nasim Kunji, DABS head for Kabul, said people chose to get electricity illegally and they did not restrict themselves to electricity meters, so how DABS would calculate consumption charges and give them bills.
Illegal use of electricity
Nasir Ahmad, a resident of Hotkhel said: “DABS does not install meters for newly built houses and therefore people have no choice but to connect power cables directly to the main lines and illegally use the electricity.”
Haji Mohammad Tahir, an elderly man of the area who was irrigating his farms through a water pump, said not installing electricity meters was the main problem.
“Hotkhel is a large area, most of people here have no meters installed but they use the electricity,” he said.
A resident of Sulaimankhel locality of Hotkhel, Bakhtiar, said he approached DABS more than 20 times for getting license of a meter installation, but the power utility did not cooperate with him. “Therefore I use electricity in my shop and home without using a meter,” he said.
“No one stops us from using electricity directly and we also do not pay money to anyone. We are ready to pay bills if the government installs power meters for us, but we have not received electricity bills over the past five years,” he said.
Haji Mohammad Rafiq, another dweller of the area, said power theft was a crime, but people were forced to do so as the government paid no attention to the issue.
Another resident of Hotkhel, Mohammad Yunus, also said most of newly built residences were not installed power meters, they used hooks.
He said a separate transformer was needed to be installed to distribute power to Hotkhel residents besides the installation of power meters.
However, Wahidullah, another inhabitant of the area, accused DABS officials of guiding people how to use hooks by paying only 50 afghanis to them in bribe.
“We are tired of this situation, whenever our electricity develops a fault, we give 50 afghanis to a DABS employee, he repairs it or connects the lines directly to the main power cables, this has become a trend now in our area,” he said.
However, DABS head Mohammad Nasim Ganji said: “We confirm some problems in Hotkhel area, but people there do not cooperate with us, they most of the times use illegal electricity and prevent electricity officers from visiting the area, they even sometimes beat our officers and briefly kidnap them.”
He said DABS had repeatedly asked Kabul police and district police officials to cooperate with DABS officials in the area, but in vain.
“One of the transformers in the area was blown up due to illegal use of electricity, the transformer was not repaired, but security officials ordered DABS to repair it as soon as possible because local residents were creating security problems,” he said.
But Col. Feraidon Obaidi, the crime branch chief at the 101st Asmai Zone Police, said DABS was responsible for the problem in Hothkhel.
He said people have the right to use electricity and DABS could cut off power to people who violated rules.
“We reject DABS claims because they themselves have failed to provide services to people. It is not fair when a department blames police for their own failures. Police have always fulfilled their responsibilities,” he said, adding action would be taken against any issue concerning the police.
But DABS head, Mohammad Nasim Ganji said they had reached some positive changes in coordination with the Hotkhel People’s Council during the past one and a half years and nearly 60 percent of the area was now consuming legal electricity.
He assured the problem in the area would be completely resolved over the next few months.
Ganji said there were eight power junctions in the Hotkhel area and 2,600 consumers. The culture of illegally electricity use has long been ongoing in Hothkhel and former DABS officials were responsible for their failure to control it, he added.
He said he has been busy renewing electricity network in the area from the past six months when he was first appointed to his current position and currently only two power junctions have problems and the rest have been repaired.
He added they have reached an agreement with the local council on meters installation to each building and resolving electricity problems with installation of new transformers until the end of the current solar year.
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