‘Trust billing’ in the time of total lockdown

DoPN comes up with system enabling consumers to make consumption reading

Morung Express News
Dimapur | April 10

The nation-wide lockdown has affected every sphere of life. Its effect has been unprecedented, disrupting anything considered not essential to survival. 

For salaried professionals, except those in medical, law enforcement, banking, energy and a few other essential utility sectors, the past few weeks has literally been a paid holiday. 

 Asked to stay indoors, TV and internet (and books for some) have been the main escape modes. 

But has anyone bothered how it would be if the electricity went kaput? No lighting, no TV, no internet, dead mobile phones — total boredom, and worse medical equipment coming to a grounding halt. 

To keep the power up and running, the government has also declared the energy sector an essential service, which implies power department technicians, also known as Linemen here, have to be on the job to respond to any breakdown anywhere and anytime. The same applies to those employed in the generation and transmission stations.   

Now, to keep the electricity network operational and to compensate for the resources expended to bring electricity to homes, money is required. The expenses, unless subsidized by the government, is paid for by the revenue collected from the consumers. It is a give and take business cycle, paying back for the service taken. 

However, the lockdown has rendered the routine of bringing electricity and revenue collection tougher, especially the latter, for utility service providers like the Department of Power, Nagaland (DoPN). In order to overcome the challenge, the DoPN has introduced a scheme called “Trust Billing.” 


Trust Billing
According to the DoPN, consumers can make use of an “online application called the Trusted Consumer Meter Reading for billing and payment facilities” through its web portal www.dopn.gov.in. 

It is not a new concept, however. Electricity providers in Uttar Pradesh have already introduced it to consumers in 2017. 

To make this work, a consumer has to first open an account by logging on to the DoPN website and register the consumer number in the “My Account” section, which appears on the right hand side of the home page. After completing the one-time registration process, the consumer will be provided with a username and password through email or SMS. The password can be changed once the consumer gets access to the account. 

Once registered, the consumer will be required to take a manual reading of the energy meter at home and note the units. Energy meters (analogue in old and digital in new) are like odometers, which measures the distance travelled by a vehicle. 

With the units noted, log in to the “My Account,” go to the Trusted Consumer Meter Reading tab, fill in the required fields (date of reading and units consumed as on that date) and submit. The system or the people running it will do the rest. 
“Your current bill, including any outstanding arrears, will be available for viewing and payment in the portal itself, after the bill generation is completed,” said a DoPN handout.

Currently, consumers Kohima, Dimapur, Chumukedima, Wokha, Phek, Mokokchung, Tuensang, Zunheboto and Mon can make use of the online service. Payments can be made through the website itself using debit card number or internet banking. There is also the option to pay through mobile banking/payment apps. 


Why so?
A DoPN official told The Morung Express that “Trust Billing” has been introduced in line with the call to maintain “social distancing” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“With the lockdown in place, it has become practically impossible for meter-readers to make door-to-door visits, take note of the energy consumption and serve bills,” said the official. 

While stating that the idea is based on trust, he expressed confidence that the consumers would provide correct readings. 
However, he added that the department will retain the conventional method of employing its personnel to do the job. 
Another reason for introducing the system is to avoid accumulation of arrears. Accumulated arrears would imply big bills, which most consumers would be hard pressed to pay in one go. 

“Waiting for the lockdown to be lifted would mean arrears accumulating as bills which were scheduled to be generated during March and April will be carried over to the next accounting months. And we are not sure whether the lockdown would be lifted or extended,” said the official.