Pre-paid metres: boon or bane?

Shanchita Shitu
Published : 06:00, Jun 20, 2019 | Updated : 06:00, Jun 20, 2019

Subscribers are facing a variety of harassment with pre-paid metres; if cards expire then they cannot be recharged on holidays. In certain homes, both pre-paid and post-paid systems are sometimes seen.
While there are complaints of suffering, power companies say there aren’t any major problems. However, they say that people face problems since they are not aware of the rules of pre-paid metre systems.
Plans have been taken to bring all subscribers under pre-paid metre system by the next five years.
The country has more than 3 crore power subscribers though the number of people using pre-paid metres is below 50 lakh. Every company has placed pre-paid metres separately and many homes have two types of metres.
A subscriber complains: “We face a lot of suffering to pay the pre-paid bills; it takes hours to pay the bill, which is illogical. Sometimes, Tk 200 is instantly cut when we upload Tk 1,000.”
Another resident, living in Ashkona, says: “If the card expires on Thursday then we cannot re-charge because cards are only available in banks which are closed on Friday and Saturday.”
Dhaka Power Development Corporation, DPDC, MD, Bikash Dewan, observes: “we don’t have problems with DPDC areas; vending machines are usually open on Saturdays. On Fridays, there’s GP, Robi, Rocket and agent banking.”
He, however, admits that there are some technical problems.
“If subscribers call 16,116, then technical team will go to provide the necessary help.”
At present, 325,000 subscribers are using DPDC pre-paid metres and the areas covered are: Azimpur, Lalbagh, Shyamoli, Kamrangir Cahr, Shami bagh, Sher e Bangla Nagar, Rajarbag and Mughda.
Work has already begun to establish another 80,000 pre-paid metres with plans for 8.5 lakh. These will be smart metres which can be charged with mobile and even if one is abroad.
There are contradictory reactions from users under DESCO. A resident of Uttara sector 14, Sadia Siraj, says: “I am not facing any problem in using pre-paid metres.”
But another resident from Sector 4, Roksana, says she has to pay more than before.
In the past, the bill was around Tk. 13,000-14,000 and now it goes up to Tk 20,000 to Tk 21,000, she informed.
Managing Director of DESCO, Shadid Sarwar, commented: “Subscribers do not have to stand in queue to pay the bills; they can have their cards recharged through Rocket or Bkash.”
Even after expiration, cards can be used for two extra days with credit, he added.
Already, 122,236 persons have been brought under pre-paid metres and orders have been placed for another 1 lakh metre.
The Rural Electrification Board, REB, has established 20,500 metres at their own cost and another 40,000 metres will be purchased.
Meanwhile, a project has been finalised to buy 3.1 million pre-payment metres with government money.
Western Power Distribution Company is working to place metres while Northern Electric Supply is working to place 5 lakh metres it got from PDB.