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Power & Energy - 2 weeks ago

Story of meter readingand electricity bill

Staff Correspondent: No work is done in government office without bribe. But you have to go to various government offices to get various services. It was once said that corruption will be reduced only by increasing the salaries of government officials. Then the salary was increased. Now, rather, the rate of bribery has increased according to salary or rank.
However, the late former Finance Minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhith gave a name to bribery to get a fair government service.
It was called ‘speed money’. The amount of this speed money is exemplified by the details of the huge wealth of several former police officers and several NBR officials.
There are different types of bribery in government offices that provide services. In some cases, a cycle develops. Almost everyone is involved in that circle. There are of course exceptions. That cycle is so strong that even seeking bribes from the powerful is considered normal. The current Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal gave some such examples. He retired as senior secretary before taking up the new charge. He was in the Ministry of Law for many years.
He also became a law secretary. He has recently authored a book titled ‘Justice and Administration: An Inside View’. Two cases of corruption are given from that book. There is an unknown story of a former state minister.
Kazi Habibul Awal wrote, ‘In 2005, I was an additional secretary in the Ministry of Law. A few years ago, I lived in a government quarter in Iskaton Gardens. In 2005 I was allotted one of four parts of Cockrail Circuit House. At present it is a 22-storey Justice Tower. In this new big house, I was getting electricity bill of Tk 400 or Tk 500 per month. I was happy. Because, the electricity bill is very less in such a big house. The Residential Officer (Secretary) of one of the four houses said that this is the facility of these houses, the bills are fixed and small. I was paying bills regularly.
There was, however, a reason behind the low bill. And in that case, Kazi Habibul Awal faced a new experience.
He wrote, ‘After a few months, a meter reader came and introduced himself and said that if he pays him Tk 500 every month, the electricity bill will not exceed the fixed Tk 300 or Tk 400. I can spend as much electricity as I want. I was very surprised. I wanted to know how that is possible. He used a word ‘estimated bill’.
Every month he will give the estimated bill. I said, I will pay what the bill is, I will not pay any extra money. I got very angry and sent him away. Next month the bill is Tk 3,000. Tk 5,000 in the next month. Even though the bills were excessive, I paid them as usual without realizing it.
The electricity bill problem does not end here. Rather, it can be said to have increased. Kazi Habibul Awal wrote, ‘The next month the bill came for Tk 36 thousand. My monthly salary was Tk 25 thousand. The sky fell on the head. The normal bill may be Tk 1200 per month. I understand that the meter reader is doing this work. I did not pay the bill of Tk 36 thousand. I ran to Desa’s office next to the secretariat and met the chairman directly. The Chairman quickly inquired and informed that every quarter of that circuit house is being given estimated bills since many years ago.
I brought my people and checked the meter. The meter is accurate and operational. Desa people also came and saw that the meter was correct and working. The outstanding bill amount on my meter will be several lakhs. I said to the chairman, do I have to bear the outstanding bills from 20-25 years ago alone? I said sternly, solve the matter immediately. Otherwise, I will resort to ACC or court. Electricity department people came the next day and removed the old meter and replaced it with a new meter showing zero reading. My bill from then on was between Tk 800 to Tk 1200 depending on winter-summer. Anyway, I got rid of Rahu the mighty meter reader.’
The problem was not completely solved. In the words of Kazi Habibul Awal, ‘Rahu’s influence was not completely freed. Year 2007 I was returning to the ministry after the planning commission meeting. I was the secretary at that time. I got a call on my mobile. Mezzo girl called from Kakrail’s house. Very angry at my irresponsibility. He said that the magistrate came and disconnected the electricity connection of the house because I did not pay the electricity bill regularly. I said to the daughter, mother, I am not irresponsible. I pay every electricity bill on time. I have proof in my documents. The daughter wanted to believe the magistrate instead of me.
His argument is that a magistrate can never do injustice. Returning to the office, I told the matter to the chairman of Desa. I said, I have all the proofs that I pay the bills regularly. Immediately ask the Magistrate to meet me and see the evidence. If the electricity connection is not restored immediately, I will be forced to file a criminal case against you along with the Magistrate.
The extremely polite businessman-politician paid the rent regularly for four-six months. Then he stopped paying the rent. Later he was elected MP in a by-election from a political party. became stronger. No more need to pay rent.
The magistrate did not come to meet me. Before that, he restored the disconnected power-connection. After returning home in the afternoon, I took out the court file from the file cabinet and showed my daughter all the copies of the up-to-date paid bills and regained her lost trust. I figured it might be the work of that angry almighty meter reader or his confederates. I raised this issue because we want to get government services for the right amount. But to give an idea of how we are victims of irony, even with good intentions due to vicious cycles.’
Another experience was written by Kazi Habibul Awal. His elder brother Kazi Obaidul Awal was the Chief Engineer of Atomic Energy Commission in 1998. He was building a two-storey house on a plot available from Rajuk in Uttara Model Town. A Casio master used to rent that house and run a showroom. Kazi Habibul Awal wrote about this, “That very polite businessman-politician paid rent regularly for four-six months. Then he stopped paying the rent. Later he was elected MP in a by-election from a political party. became stronger. No more need to pay rent. Fate was in our favor. He was then an opposition MP in Parliament. My innocent helpless brother asked for my advice.
Kazi Habibul Awal then wrote, ‘I informed Fanibhushan Chowdhury, a friend of the police department, and asked for help. He was the senior SP of Dhaka CID office at that time. 14 months rent was in arrears. On behalf of elder brother, I said I don’t want arrears, evict the tenant. Father, don’t beg, handle the dog. Friend Phanibhushan Chowdhury saved us by evicting the illegal tenant within two weeks.
However, that was not the end of the incident. A new danger appeared. Qazi Habibul Awal wrote, ‘After a few days, Wasa’s people came and cut the water line. Because two-year bills are due. The electrician came and disconnected the electricity. Because two years electricity bill is due. Big brother politely asked the junior officers or employees of the powerful government utility service, why after two years! If you had come long ago and severed these connections, I would have survived. They said in a threatening tone, when the connection will be cut, it is not your concern, it is our concern. People now understand how the bureaucrats in this country steal the government revenue themselves and put the burden on the shoulders of the common people.
Finally, Kazi Habibul Awal wrote, ‘That honorable tenant gentleman was later appointed as the Minister of State in charge of the Ministry of Home Affairs during the rule of BNP. Legislation will be needed to create a special elite force RAB. He came to the Ministry of Law and met with Minister Maudud Ahmed. I was sitting there at that time. How RAB will be in any law was being discussed. The decision was to amend the Armed Police Battalion Ordinance, 1979 to constitute this force. This elite force RAB was formed in 2003 through the Armed Police Battalion (Amendment) Act, 2003. Lutfuzzaman Babar, the father or founder of RAB, was arrested by RAB in 2007 and has been imprisoned for the past 16 years.

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