Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Maharashtra State Electric Board Sucks

That's another thing that's been increasingly frustrating, all the power failures here. The first year or so I thought it was kind of neat, a reminder I was living somewhere exotic and tropical, but over the last few years it's just gotten annoying. Maybe that's because the adventure has worn off, and maybe because I have Leena's frustration added to mine with it. It's worse for her because she really likes to watch TV and mostly likes food heated in the microwave.

And side effects of all the power failures fall on her... The MSEB is simply bloody incompetent. Last year was really bad, with the power out for seven scheduled hours a day for a good bit of the year, and this year was okay till a couple of months ago when the summer just wore on and on, when it's gotten unreliable with a lot of random outages.

I got upset when I found out that a portion of the power bill is fixed, so they continue to charge us that even when they don't provide service.

And we have other problems, unrelated to the power failures they rarely ever deliver a bill to us, the courier usually returns them because they can't find our address. Leena goes to the MSEB office almost monthly to get them to print a bill, but when the power's out they can't use their own branch office computers to look up our bill or print one.

But don't worry, their system that calculates late fees and interest has full UPS or generator backup!

Even if we get a bill one way or another, it's usually wrong. It turns out that if the power is out when the meter reader comes by to read the meter, then they give us an estimated bill, because they supplied us with a new, modern, fancy LCD digital meter, that doesn't display anything when the power's out...

And frequently the bill is wrong because somehow we keep shifting between residential and commercial status, which costs a lot more and a few times a year Leena has to make a few trips to their office (even more if the power's out) in order to get them to rectify that and recalculate it at residential rates.

Two years ago we got a gigantic bill, way out of proportion for the power we were using, like 30 times the normal bill. When Leena went to their office to inquire about it they said it was all late fees and interest because we hadn't been paying the full bills every month for several years, which of course surprised us mightily as we always paid the amount they billed us... With several trips there and hours and hours waiting, they figured out that the problem wasn't that we paid less than the bill, but that they were billing us less than they should've, but at least one computer was keeping track of the full amount the whole time. At first they told us we'd just have to pay it because we were late but Leena managed to fight it out with the managers and supervisors and point out that it was their fault we didn't get correct bills, we paid the amount they charged us in good faith.

And this is the power company supplying power to a major high-tech city in India?

And I come from a place where electricity has been more reliable than this for, oh, not long, maybe just a century. I miss the reliability, and the assumption that a bill is probably right, instead of probably wrong.

A lot the people at work have loud phone calls and then miss days or half days for similar work, with the MSEB, BSNL or their banks, all of which give them incorrect bills or statements, almost always to the institution's advantage. I guess part of what I'm tired of is that here in India, problems and failures like that are the norm, rather than the exception. And I miss a life where most things go smooth with only the occasional screw-up, and bills are probably right, instead of probably wrong.

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