VEERESH MALIK | “When will they start online bill payment for electricity bills”, I asked the very helpful lady at the office of the Electricity Department, Government of Goa, at my electricity office. “Already started in Tiswadi, and maybe 3-6 months here”, she responded with a smile, and then added, “but you will still have to come here for corrections and changes,” she said with a sigh.
I can quite believe it. Busy amidst mountains of files and registers and papers stapled to file covers and registers, the whole electricity billing system appears to be very much in need for online bill generation and payment methods, rapidly.
Billing and reconciling of electricity bills has always been a challenge in India, and is one of those prices many of us believe we have to pay to live in our country of birth and choice, one wrong entry and getting it corrected is considered your fault and the concept of “customer” or “consumer” is replaced by that of “supplicant”.
Take the electricity bills in Goa, for example. The billed amounts are still printed using old-fashioned dot-matrix printers, so are often light to ultra light, rendering them quite unreadable. Payment can be made in cash, in which case you have to go to the payment counter, and for your efforts you get a squiggly initial and a rubber stamp that says “paid in full” – without any reference number.
If you wish to pay by cheque, then the cheques have to be from a specific list of banks and their local branches nearby only. Should you wish to pay by some other form of instrument, then you have to get a demand draft made, and that’s not always so easy either.
Online payment would resolve many of these issues, and obviate the need to return to get bills corrected, but more than that, there is a need to amend the counter payment methods.
# Cash payments – in addition to the rubber stamp and initials of cashier, a reference or diary number is essential.
# Cheque payments – a cheque from any bank payable at par in Goa should be acceptable, and the same reference or diary number provided.
All said and done, however, things are way better in Goa than in many other parts of India in this context. We do get regular electricity and bills do land up regularly. And on the ground linesman service has always been polite as well as quietly efficient in its own way, with people carrying proper tools and equipment and safety gear.
That is so important, seeing people working with proper safety gear, that I want to repeat this and appreciate this twice.
Now I need to follow-up on the issue of regular internet connectivity though!