Four Varanasi power department officers were told to feed orphanage inmates as ‘punishment’ for inflating an electricity bill to more than Rs 2 lakh, claiming the charges were pending since 1911 for a house connection. The Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited officers were found guilty by the UP State Information Commission and were forced to reduce the power bill to Rs 3,998.

The commission during the proceedings also asked the guilty officers whether the UPPCL was in existence in 1911, and whether the people in Varanasi were getting electricity then.

Uma Shankar Yadav, a Varanasi resident, was asked to pay Rs 2.24 lakh in power charges by the UPPCL against a connection, it claimed, his father Basantu Yadav had got in 1911 for his residence in the city’s Maidagin area.

Umashankar contested the amount, but when he could not get a favourable resolution, filed a Right to Information plea with the corporation in December 2022, and when he could not get a proper response, pursued the matter with higher authorities.

In April 2023, Yadav approached the UP State Information Commission and the matter was taken up.

As a result of the proceedings, four UPPCL officers were found guilty and were asked to feed inmates of two orphanages in Varanasi, said State Information Commissioner Ajaya Kumar Uprety. The action came after the four men turned up before the commission on Tuesday responding to a warrant, having earlier ignored several summonses. “This is for the first time in the country that four officers of a single department furnished Rs 10,000 at Adampur Police Station in Varanasi against the bailable warrant issued by the UP State Information Commission for not complying with the orders of the Commission,” Uprety told PTI.

The power department officers tendered an apology to the commission for generating a wrong electricity bill of Rs 2.24 lakh and said they had reduced the bill to Rs 3,998.

The four officers involved in the incident were Superintending Engineer Anil Verma, Executive Engineer RK Gautam, and sub divisional officers Sarvesh Yadav and Ravi Anand of the UPPCL.

Since the officers accepted their mistake, Uprety said, he chose to award them a “symbolic punishment” of feeding inmates of two orphanages in Varanasi.

“The Commission also directed them that expenses on the meals of the inmates of orphanages should not exceed Rs 25,000 in each case, and inform the Commission about the compliance of the order,” Uprety said.

Under the RTI Act, monetary penalty cannot not exceed Rs 25,000, he said.

“While hearing the case, the commission asked the officers several questions like, whether in 1911 electricity was being given to people in Varanasi? How was the bill calculated and what was the cost per unit? What was the company that was transmitting power to the consumers then? Was UPPCL in existence then?” a source had earlier said.

The electricity department officials failed to answer these questions despite repeated summonses, prompting the commission to issue an arrest warrant against them.

The warrant was addressed to DCP (Kashi zone) Pramod Kumar.

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