Power Theft: PDD Takes On ‘Elite Consumers’

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Srinagar, Sept 23: Buoyed by a no-nonsense go-ahead from the chief minister, Omar Abdullah, the Power Development Department in Jammu and Kashmir has tightened its noose around those allegedly involved in power theft. And, throwing up a big surprise, it has caught two of its own senior officials with their pants down.
Sources said the chief minister, who holds the Power portfolio, had issued written instructions to the PDD authorities. “Don’t let anybody go, no matter how well connected he may be,” he is understood to have told the officials. Following the directive, the department has intensified its efforts to curb power theft, with the thrust area shifting to what it describes as “elite consumers” all over the state.
“During an inspection in Jammu’s Roop Nagar area, a special PDD squad, of all the defaulters, found two of its own executive engineers drawing electricity illegally. While one of them had laid a permanent 3-phase underground line to draw energy from, the other had changed his meter three months ago without informing the department,” a senior official in EM&RE Wing, Jammu, pleading anonymity, told Kashmir Observer, adding each of the accused officials had been fined over Rs 80,000.
“A marriage hall in the area was found drawing power through an illegal line and was fined Rs 1.50 lakh,” the official said, adding several cement plants in the Batal Balian industrial area had allegedly resorted to metering deviations at which the authorities had launched “detailed technical investigation” to work out the extent of power theft.
In a similar inspection, the PDD officials found a Narbal-based transformer repair unit had allegedly laid an additional illegal line crossing the highway. “It is for the second time in a matter of two months that the unit, which draws its sustenance from the PDD itself, has resorted to power theft. A penalty of Rs 1.50 lakh has been imposed on it and the department is seriously contemplating black-listing it now,” an official in PDD, Budgam, wishing not to be named, told Kashmir Observer.
Sources said punitive action had also been initiated against over half a dozen stone crushers in Tangmarg area allegedly for drawing power illegally as their meters were found dead. A penalty of Rs 2.5 lakh has been imposed on the units, they said.
Lately, the PDD has started a vigorous drive against what is termed as “malicious or willful wastage of electricity in houses and shops during day punishable under section 100 of the J&K Electricity Act of 2010 with a fine up to Rs 10,000. Several such consumers along Srinagar bye-pass have been fined so far. The department is likely to expand its dragnet against such wastage elsewhere in the state.

‘Ensure Accurate Meter Reading’
The Power Development Department has asked consumers to ensure accurate record of their monthly meter readings to preclude wrong billing. The meter readers have been asked to maintain a note book with every consumer or else forfeit their claim for the two-and-a-half day additional salary they get at present.

“In a large number of cases, it has been found that current meter reading did not match with that reflected in the bill because the concerned meter readers had furnished fictitious reading to the computerized billing centers. This has resulted in loss to the department and in several cases even to the consumers themselves,” a senior PDD official asking not to be named told Kashmir Observer.

He said the PDD employees were getting two-and-a-half days’ additional salary in lieu of working overtime on Sundays, holidays and during night. “However, it has been observed that in a majority of cases, the field staff, including meter readers, did not work overtime to discharge their duties fully and, instead of visiting every household and business premises, they record fictitious reading,” he said, adding the consumers should insist on seeing their readings entered in the note book accurately.

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