Electricity Bills – Shocks and Aftershocks

Context: Owing to the fund cuts by the MHRD to IITs, it was decided that starting this semester students would be required to pay their electricity bills each month. The bills for the month of January are already out and the numbers are, so to say, extravagant.

Prior to this per-month-per-student billing, students used to pay a consolidated amount of  about 1450 rupees per semester for the electricity usage. The semester fee for this semester was reduced by 2000 odd rupees (which included the amount for electricity consumption and payment for pensions of mess workers of the erstwhile government messes) and it was estimated that with the per month billing in place, student might end up paying a 1000 rupees or so extra for each semester.

But surprisingly, students of some halls received bills as high as 1400 just for the month of January. The use of tubelights, a fan and a socket resulting in a bill of 1400 is rather far-fetched and this caused a lot of furore among the student community. Students took to social media platforms to vent out their frustrations and in the 3rd CoSHA meeting held on 22nd February, this was taken up as an agenda item. In the CoSHA meeting, the house formed a committee comprising 3 PG and 2 UG students to look closely into the matter, suggest a better model and give recommendations to the authorities.

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                                                                     Students raising concern on Facebook

Concerns that were raised: A lot of concerns were voiced about the mooted billing model, some of which include –

  • The electricity consumption due to usage in common areas- which was to be paid for by the institute- was assumed a mere 10%, which is otherwise believed to constitute a sizable fraction of the bill.
  • The calibration of meters was questioned, for instance, the block wise meter reading of Hall-4 adds up to twice the reading for the entire hall.
  • The formulation of the factors α, β, γ, δ which were used for the calculation of hall wise bills was questioned. (The detailed calculation of the factors can be found here: http://students.iitk.ac.in/ss/home/wp-content/uploads/Final(1).pdf )
  • 70% of the electricity bill is due to the usage in academic areas and one of the above factors includes this, in a sense charging students for the same. Whether the faculty is also paying for the electricity consumption was a concern.
  • The variation in the bills was another issue. The per-head bills range from about 1400 in Hall-4 and Hall-8, about 900 for Hall -11 to 475 in Hall -3.
  • According to PhD students, they are not given their HRA (house and rental allowance) because institute provides them with housing, electricity and water. Now that they were being asked to pay the bill, their HRA should be paid as well.

Current status: Due to strong student retaliation and flaws in the proposed billing system, the system has been revoked for now. It has been decided that as of now the students aren’t required to pay the bills for the month of January, and will continue giving the consolidated amount which they used to pay till the last semester.

The model prepared for billing the students had sizable flaws and consequently drew flak from the student community. But owing to the proactive participation of general body members, the President Students’ Gymkhana (both incoming and outgoing) and certain CoSHA members towards resolving this issue, the students have been saved from the humongous bills.

Written by Rishabh Anand