When the nation is observing a 10-day shutdown to curb the coronavirus spread, power consumers with prepaid metres across the country are crowding at different recharge points in a traditional way to have their cards reloaded, increasing the risks of infection.
The electricity supplying companies earlier assured customers that service providing agents would go to their doorsteps across the country to refill their cards. But the reality is different.
Customers have the option of having their cards recharged by making payments through different online banking facilities, including mobile banking. But most users do not use the e-recharge facility as they are not technologically adept, claimed power officials.
As a result, hundreds of users were seen in the last few days gathering at service points both in Dhaka and other divisions to get their cards recharged after their electricity connections were reportedly cut off.
Electricity users would not have to crowd before recharge points had the power supplying companies, like the gas supplying ones, increased the emergency balance to the users' accounts.
Prepaid users have been getting uninterrupted gas supply as the supplying companies have increased their emergency balances to Tk2,000 from Tk200 so that they stay indoors as much as possible in line with government directives.
Dhaka Power Distribution Company Limited (DPDC) and Dhaka Electric Supply Company Limited (DESCO) are responsible for electricity supply in the Dhaka and Narayanganj areas.
To ensure their power connections are not severed, customers yesterday gathered in front of different recharge points, including Azimpur, Moghbazar, Bashabo, Kamrangirchar, Lalbag, Gulshan, Baridhara and Uttara in Dhaka.
When asked, DPDC's Managing Director Engineer Bikash Dewan told The Business Standard that the organisation has the e-recharge facility but not all customers are technologically literate enough to use it.
"Therefore, they gather before the recharge points in the conventional way," he added.
Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB) is the largest electricity supplying company of the country with more than two crore customers.
Its customers in Dhaka, Gazipur, Savar, Tangail and other cities yesterday gathered at their respective Palli Bidyut Samity (PBS) offices to top-up their prepaid cards.
Customers were asked to have their cards refilled through bKash and other mobile banking service agencies. Despite the call, they are coming to the service providing points, according to BREB officials.
The company has a total of 10.6 lakh prepaid users under 80 PBSs.
When asked why the company did not give emergency balance to its customers like the gasdistributing companies, BREB Chairman Major General Moin Uddin (Retd) said, "BREB has only prepaid metres, not smart ones. And it is not possible to provide emergency balance to prepaid metres."
Admitting limitations, he said the company is doing its very best to deliver services to customers so that they stay at home.
"We directed all the Palli Bidyut Samity managers to send a message to customers' phones to call us on the hotline and have their cards reloaded online."
West Zone Power Distribution Company Ltd (WZPDC) supplies electricity to 21 districts of Khulna, Dhaka and Barishal divisions.
The company has around 2 lakh prepaid users in its distribution area. Its users are also suffering from power problems due to prepaid cards' balance going zero.
When asked, WZPDC's Managing Director Engr Md Shafique Uddin said that of the total number of users, only 65,000 customers have been facing the problem.
"Besides our regular recharging facility, we have launched a mobile recharging service through which we go to the users' end for them to recharge their cards," he said.