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Darjeeling Lok Adalat for BSNL outstanding telephone bills

Darjeeling Lok Adalat for BSNL outstanding telephone bills
More than a thousand telephone subscribers turned up at the Darjeeling court on Sunday for a mega Lok Adalat organized by the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) on behalf of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), to persuade people to pay-up their outstanding telephone bills.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) had directed the hill people to avoid paying their taxes including telephone and electricity bills as part of its non-cooperation movement against the state government during the second round of statehood agitation. Following the diktat, outstanding dues in excess of Rs 100 crore in bills of various kinds had accumulated between the period of April 2008 to August 2011. However, after the signing of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) agreement, GJM asked people to start paying their bills from August 2011.
GJM however is in talks with both the State Government and the Centre to waive of the pending amount for April 2008 to August 2011 which also figures in the GTA agreement, but is yet to be approved by the government.
The DLSA has sent notices to 1,560 people asking them to appear for the Lok Adalat. “We are getting good response from the people as most of them attended the Lok Adalat, today. We want people to get justice,” said the district and session’s judge Uday Kumar.
Six counters were set up to facilitate people seeking to know the mode of payment and discounts available. “Our finding after interaction with people is that it is not their fault. They wanted to pay their bills but could not, as no arrangements had been made during the nearly four-year long statehood agitation in the Hills,” the judge said.
Officials from the telecommunication department were also present in the Lok Adalat but refuse to speak to media persons. However A. K. Dakua, general manager of the Siliguri Telecom district said, “The outstanding amount is to the tune of nearly Rs.7 crore in the district. As for the discounts, it is the Lok Adalat that is giving it, which we have agreed to”.
Provisions have been made by the Lok Adalat for subscribers to pay their dues in instalments and also with discounts. People seeking to make full payments will be given seventy percent discounts on their total amount. This aside, they will also be able to pay in installments.
However, during the hearing some technical glitches and errors also surfaced. Gangaram Pradhan of Lodhoma was summoned for the Lok Adalat even though he did not have a telephone connection. “I travelled 77 km to attend the Adalat as the court had summoned me. The notice shows that I have to pay Rs.45,132, but I had never applied or had a telephone connection. I am here because it was a notice from the court and was afraid I could be arrested if I failed to attend it,” he said. Telecom officials said such cases would be heard and discussed in another forum.
The DLSA officials said similar Lok Adalat will be organized in other sub-divisions of Darjeeling district, including one for pending electricity bills. A senior member of the DLSA said more than Rs.30 lakh due had been collected till 5p.m. on Sunday.(EOIC)

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