In a move that could trigger a public outcry, the PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir is filing cases with police against consumers resorting to power theft while “earmarking” two full-fledged police stations in Srinagar and Jammu for the purpose.
In a high-level meeting chaired by J&K’s Chief Vigilance Commissioner Kuldeep Khoda here, the Power Development Department was asked to register FIRs in all cases of electricity theft or illegal power connections that come to the fore and monitor the progress of investigation and trial thereof.
The meeting was attended by two members of the State Vigilance Commission and PDD Chief Engineers (MnRE) Kashmir and Jammu divisions and Chief Engineer, P&MM as well.
While deliberating upon “large number of theft cases being detected”, the Commission decided to recommend to the Government to “earmark one police station each at Jammu and Srinagar for dealing with the offences under the State Electricity Act.”
The move—which many PDD insiders term as “anti-people”—comes at a time when the PDD headed by Deputy Chief Minister DrNirmal Singh has decided to charge consumers 300 times more as monthly electricity fee.
Talking to us, Khoda said during the meeting chaired by him, the PDD officials raised the issue that cases of power theft were not getting registered in police stations and sought that two police stations should be earmarked for dealing with such cases.
“The suggestion came from their side and we appreciated it as a good idea,” he said.
A senior PDD official said there was already a provision in the State Electricity Act for strict action against a consumer who resorts to power theft.
“Now we will be implementing the law and in a case of chronic power theft case, a consumer can be jailed,” the official said.
He said the PDD had been for long demanding implementation of the Act to check power theft in all categories including domestic and commercial.
“We were not getting the desired response from police. The issue came up for discussion in today’s meeting and it was resolved that necessary action under law should be taken to deal with the cases,” said the PDD official.
The meeting directed heads of PDD wings to personally look into the complaints regarding power theft and illegal connections.
For improving the “enforcement of preventive vigilance”, the meeting decided that the Departmental Vigilance Officers (DVOs) in respect of all engineering departments, henceforth, shall be the concerned Superintending Engineer, instead of an Executive Engineer.
Recently the PDD officials both in Kashmir and Jammu were directed to meet the set targets of power tariff collections. The release of their annual increments was made also conditional: “subject to accomplishment of the set targets.”
While PDD bosses hail the move, many officials say it’s “anti-people and can be misused.”
“Having full-fledged police stations to deal with the issue is certainly something worrying. There is no guarantee that the new mantra won’t be misused by officials and field staff to mint money,” a former PDD official said. “I think the entire issue needs a public debate. The stakeholders shouldn’t feel harassed by such arbitrary decisions by the state government.”