India man kills self over $13,000 electricity bill

Jagannath Shelke’s family alleges officials did not help him although he approached them. Courtesy: BBC

An Indian vegetable seller allegedly killed himself on Thursday after receiving an electric bill of nearly $13,000 (£9570) in the western state of Maharashtra. 

Jagannath Shelke, 36, left behind a suicide note in which he said that the bill was “very high”, his family told BBC Marathi.

Officials said the actual bill was just 2,800 rupees ($41.6).

His family alleges officials did not help him although he approached them.

They say he had made multiple trips to the state-run electricity board.

Police have lodged a complaint against an official of the electricity board for sending an incorrect bill. The board also suspended him after Shelke’s note was widely circulated on social media. 

Shelke had been charged for “61178” units of electricity when he should have been charged for “6117.8” units. Since officials had read the meter incorrectly, they generated a bill for the wrong amount.

“The bill…was erroneous because of a missing decimal point,” Suresh Ganeshkar, a senior engineer told BBC Marathi’s Amey Pathak. “We have taken action against the employee who is responsible.”

He said the issue had not been resolved because Shelke had failed to register a written complaint with the board.

He had received the bill in the last week of April for the month of March.

“Eight days ago my brother called me. He was worried about the huge amount,” Shelke’s brother, Vitthal, said. “He told me that officials were threatening to confiscate his property.”

Shelke’s daughter, Ashwini, alleged that her father had died because of the system’s failure.

“My father was under a huge financial burden and the exorbitant electricity bill was a big shock for him,” she added.