The MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) associations in Chennai and adjoining districts continue to protest against the recent power tariff increase and will be observing a hunger strike on Friday against the steep increase in charges.

The protest is against the increase in fixed charges that have been raised multifold and that have to be paid irrespective of whether the unit runs or not. The increase certainly hits MSME units during the lean period and it will lead to the closure of several units permanently, leaving several hundreds of people jobless, said a statement by Chennai MSME Federation, which represents the industrial estate associations in Chennai and neighbouring districts.

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For the past two and half years, MSMEs have been facing countless hardships and many of the units have been struggling to pay the banks and other statutory dues. In a such difficult situation, TANGEDCO has announced an increase in power tariff, after seeking permission from the regulator, which has hit the MSMEs as a bolt from the blue, it added.

The Federation pointed out that while MSMEs are not against the increase in energy charges – up from ₹6.50 per unit to ₹7.50 per unit- the hike in fixed charges (demand charges) would hit the units hard. For less than 50 kW, fixed changes have been increased from ₹.35 to 75 per month, while the rate for 50 kW to 112 kW has been increased from ₹35 to ₹110 per month. For 112 kW to 150 kW, it has gone up from ₹35 to ₹550 per month.

Meanwhile, a new tariff component – LT peak hour charges (15 per cent charged on 20 per cent of the total consumption) has been introduced for consumption between 6 am to 6 pm and 6 pm to 10 pm. “When Tamil Nadu Electricity Board claims to be self-sufficient, it is unfair to implement these peak hour charges,” said the Federation.

It requested the state government to immediately withdraw fixed and peak-hour charges.