WHILE OPPOSITION parties like AAP and SAD have been alleging that inflated power bills are being sent to rural areas, data from the Punjab State Power Corporation (PSPCL) presents a contrary picture. Rural domestic areas in many parts of the state are involved in heavy power theft, the PSPCL has found, due to which it has now started contacting village panchayats, seeking their help to detect such crimes.
According to PSPCL data, Bhikhiwind division tops the state with 81 per cent loss on urban pattern supply (UPS) feeders, followed by Patti in the same area, where losses on UPS feeders is at 71 per cent. Both are located in the border zone in Majha Punjab. In the Zira division in Malwa area of west zone, losses on UPS feeders is 61 per cent. Zira comes under SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s parliamentary constituency Ferozepur, followed by Patran, which is in Patiala parliamentary constituency, recording losses of 57 per cent on UPS feeders. Baghapurana in Moga area has recorded 55 per cent loss on UPS feeders.
In Punjab, losses on feeders in rural areas is 37 per cent as compared to 12 per cent in urban areas. As the department is busy with a massive drive against power theft across the state, the figures of different divisions revealed that consumers are indulging in the same.
UPS feeders supply power to rural domestic areas. Hence losses on these feeders indicate that power theft is being committed by villagers, who are given 8 hours power free of cost for tubewells. Tubewell supply however is provided by agriculture feeders.
In Kalia and Skatra villages in Amarkot sub-division of Bhikiwind area, panchayats themselves launched a drive last week to personally check each house. Surjan Singh, former sarpanch of Skatra, said, “We took a pledge in the village gurdwara to stop power theft in this village and Kalia. Hence we are collecting heaters — which are usually operated on kundi (illegal) connection — from every house. We were surprised that many well-off families were also doing the same. We broke hundreds of heaters collected from both villages. These heaters consume huge amounts of electricity and hence if PSPCL imposes any fine on these villagers, we will not be responsible later on.” Videos were also made of the drive. A similar drive was also carried out in Rajoke of Tarn Taran district.
The sarpanch of Karahewala village in Zira was also found indulging in power theft and when enforcement squads checked his meter last week, his wife even threatened them saying she has a gun. “Four air-conditioners were found in his house. Their explanation was that the entire village has ACs and others also indulge in power theft,” a power corporation employee told The Indian Express.
In Barnala, power corporation employees were attacked by a farmer in Bajidke village when he was found indulging in power theft on July 10. Though PSPCL has collected over Rs 5 crore in fines through raids across the state, huge losses on UPS feeders indicate power theft particularly in rural areas.
PSPCL CMD Baldev Singh Sran told The Indian Express, “Our teams are conducting raids and at a number of places, they are facing resistance from the masses. We are also enrolling panchayats. As losses are huge in border areas, we need to check them. We have adequate power supply, but such leakages cause financial loss to the department apart from overburdening feeders, which results in faults. I appeal to all consumers to declare their load with the department.”