Saturday, July 12, 2008

Oct 2006-Jul 2008: It's been a long struggle...

It was in October 2006, I used to run a small scale unit in Mumbai and I received my first escalated electricity bill from Reliance Energy.

(For those who came in late... my bill went from Rs. 210 for 11 units to Rs. 10,800 for 14 units!!)

It was then that I woke up and smelt the coffee .. oops .. the mud, about how Reliance Energy had been hoodwinking its consumers.

Ever since then and with the help and guidance of Mr. Rakshpal Abrol (President of the Bombay Small Scale Industries Association) I was made aware of the depths of this bottomless chasm. He warned me of the gravity of the situation, but I was determined to 'do something' - after all this was 'wrong'!!

Since then, I jumped in and ...

... started 'blogging' (this one here and mirrored on Rediff iland and then later also Bijleepower).
... formed (and still Moderate) the Bijlee Yahoo Group
... started an Online Petition for removal of monopoly in Mumbai's electricity supply
... sent out many emails (more in frustration and desperation) to demystify the electricity issue
... participated in public meetings on creating awareness
... became the Moderator of the Electricity section at
... was hit by threatening Legal Notices by REL
... initially refused to pay their illegal bills (later relented in the interest of feeding my staff)
... initiated a legal battle with REL in the Consumer Court (after they chopped off my electricity)
... made presentations at MERC's public hearings
... was interviewed by TV & newspapers on the issue (some called me 'Power Activist', Ha!)
... made presentations at the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity at New Delhi
... got REL penalised for not turning up at the Tribunal hearing !
... was referred to in many of MERC's Orders. See here (pgs 12/24/25) and here (pgs 39/40)
... and even helped file a case against REL in the Supreme Court

There was a time when people have come up to me and told me, 'Don't take "panga" with the Ambanis.' Well, it was never personal and so I was never 'afraid' ... he is a businessman in his own right and I have my rights as a Consumer.

This journey has by no means ended (hey, life is a journey .. to sound cliched) and things will go on. I have moved on from my small scale unit into a challenging corporate environment. People have become more aware of the electricity situation ... and of their rights ...

And now in July 2008, the Supreme Court has given its verdict on the interpretation of Tata Power's Distribution License .. that Tata Power can also supply electricity to retail consumers in Mumbai.

Thus paving the way, once again, for competition in this sector and giving me a sense of accomplishment-of-sorts.

Sure, we have a long way to go, but I think we have set the ball rolling and now there are enough people who have been made aware of the situation.

Looking back, I have learnt a lot from this experience and the point of this entire blog is that if you feel deep down you are right about something, its worth pursuing (and pursue it like hell).

The results may seem elusive at first and even impossible - but if you are on the right track, the small spark that you carry can actually become a forest fire !

Do not underestimate your own capabilities. When this happened, I was a complete novice (I believe, 'newbie' is the right word ... or is it 'noob'?) in the ways of the Internet - but now I can get myself around.

Don't give up ... Believe in yourself ... Take on the world ... and whether you get the results you desired or not .. YOU will be a different person !!

Cheers !!

End note: It's Guru Purnima on July 18th .. I would like to pay my respects to my Guru, Mr. Rakshpal Abrol, who taught me the ropes in this entire struggle of mine. Sir, with folded hands I pay my humble respect to you. Thank you.

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