Power consumers in the state have been warned by the electricity department to get the excess load drawn by them regularised within the next 30 days. Failure to do so would lead to action being initiated under Section 10 of the Electricity Act which deals with unauthorised use/theft of electricity. The department says overdrawing of power by consumers causes tripping. Most major overdrawing cases are believed to be known to department officials and allegedly have the blessings of unscrupulous elements among them. Now that the department has ‘woken up’ to the problem, we hope both the overdrawing consumers as well as the conniving officials get penalised. It remains to be seen how many consumers come forward voluntarily to get the excess power load drawn by them regularised. There are thousands of consumers who have taken a single phase connection to avoid paying additional charges when their requirement is three phase. There are house owners who have taken a common connection for the house and extended power supply to the rooms they added for renting.
Why does the electricity department want consumers to come forward voluntarily to get their excess load regularised, rather than sending its officials for checking for it? Connections should have been first examined for excess use by department officials to find the quantum of excess use and then notices should have been sent to the violators to get the excess load regularised with some penalty for past theft. There could be many who have been deliberately overdrawing power, but others might be unaware about what constitutes a violation of the Electricity Act. The department should have fixed another common problem: at least 60,000 power meters are faulty and need to be replaced. The owners of the houses with faulty meters are getting away by paying the fixed amount that is chargeable to them based on the power load declared at the time of getting the connection. They are not charged for overuse of power. Such consumers will get away without any penalty even if they have been drawing excess power.
In January this year Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar announced plans to set up an enforcement cell to investigate complaints of power theft. Though eight months have passed nothing has moved on this score. As power theft and overdrawing are quite common it is unlikely that it has been going on without connivance of officials. Excess use of power is not only for domestic consumption but also for commercial use, especially in tourist belt. With hardly any action taken against corrupt department officials for making the department and government lose money, theft and excess drawing of power have developed into an art. In the recent past the only case of errant officials being taken to task was that of four junior engineers of the power department attached to the Mapusa division who were suspended for giving an illegal electricity connection in Arambol. As overdrawing of power also amounts to power theft, it remains to be seen when the government would act against those who have been misusing the power supply for long and the officials whose duty it was to prevent such theft.
The department must go all out against power theft through illegal connections and excess drawing, for it causes imbalance in the supply and uninterrupted nature of power to all consumers, including those who have not been indulging in any such theft. Some power thieves sometimes justify their crime on the ground that getting temporary connections is difficult. The power department should make the process easier. In several cases temporary connections are denied as meters are not available. The department could also look into the grievance that rates for temporary connections are high, so people take connections from neighbours or tap power lines directly. The department must make people take legal connections. Owing to illegal connections and theft, the department loses revenue. Ironically, when accidents take place due to illegal connections, it is the department which is publicly blamed. In order to make up for the last reported loss of Rs 162 crore, the department needs to catch power thieves and make them pay the legal charges. In seeking to condone the illegalities by voluntary regularisation and allowing power thieves to go scot free the department will only earn the resentment of honest consumers who do not steal power and pay their bills on time. What we expect the department to do is take strong deterrent action against the commercial and domestic power theft cases known to their officials. The rest of the violators will fall in line.