Kohima electrical division on overdrive against unpaid bills
KOHIMA — Since the ‘extensive disconnection drive’ began earlier last week, the Kohima Electrical Division has disconnected power supply to approximately 70 defaulting consumers in Kohima’s Midland colony.
The Power Department had earlier notified consumers under the Kohima Electrical Division that an extensive disconnection drive would begin on January 10, to address nonpayment of electricity bills for all categories of consumers.
Following the public announcement, it disconnected power supply to approximately 60 to 70 defaulting consumers in eight days, averaging eight disconnections per day, according to Nzanbemo Odyuo, SDO , No. 1, Kohima.
The team is going door-to-door, starting with Midland colony, checking for illegal, unauthorised connections and non-payment of bills.
The department is targeting consumers who have not paid their electricity bills for years. Warnings are issued in cases where nonpayment is less than a year or six months, according to Odyuo, who also stated that the disconnection process will continue until March 31.
Approximately 30% of consumers in Kohima pay their bills on time, mostly on a monthly basis or every two/three months, according to the department.
Disconnection drives are a continuous process, but they intensify around the financial year. The anti-power theft mobile squad (APTMS) is in place to oversee these kinds of cases, including thefts and non-payment of utility bills, he said.
The official also mentioned the different types of electricity theft practices in Kohima, including direct line, meter tampering or meter by-passing and hooking, which is less rampant. If a house is without a meter but is still using electricity, then that is a clear case of power theft.
Such consumers are drawing electricity from the nearest electricity poles, he explained, while adding that energy theft cannot be detected easily.
Manpower constraints vs. power thieves
Despite efforts made to deter electricity theft in Kohima, cases of power theft are hard to contain, mainly because new cases are coming up on a daily basis.
It becomes difficult for the field workers to go to the same location twice in the same year owing to manpower shortage. In a year, the division may be able to cover five to eight colonies and target other colonies in the following year. During that time, some consumers may resort to the same illegal means, Odyuo maintained.
He went on to add that the division has come across some rare cases of consumers resorting back to power theft even after the disconnection. In this regard, the division maintains a record of such consumers and checks whether they come forward to pay bills. A second drive is carried out if the consumer does not turn up.
“The decrease in illegal power theft might not be very encouraging. Power theft is very easy,” he said.
The SDO admitted that manpower is one main issue. Whenever they conduct extensive disconnection drives, they are compelled to make use of their available manpower, which in turn affects the other activities of the division like maintenance of power supply, construction works, or alteration of existing sets. They keep such work in abeyance during the drives.
Depending on the availability of manpower and emergencies, about 10 to 12 field staff in about three groups are sent out every day for disconnection drives.
“There is over 2000 field staff in Nagaland in the Power department. Although our electrical assets/ number of consumers are growing on a daily basis, the number of staff remains the same,” the official disclosed.
Besides that, logistics availability becomes an issue, and the department resorts to hiring private vehicles.
Fund constraint is another issue, he said, and urged consumers to use power judiciously and pay utility bills on time, as Nagaland has to buy power from other states.
While informing consumers to approach offices for rectification in case of any discrepancies, the official said they deal with about 20 to 30 consumers per day on average for rectifications.
Outsourcing meter reading to private party
The executive engineer of Kohima Electrical Division, Shiludi Longkumer, also underscored that the division is ‘struggling’ with limited resources. There is a shortage of manpower, and the state government has stopped appointing new field staff/ meter readers.
Covering the whole Kohima area is a tedious job, he said, adding that they have plans to outsource meter reading and bill delivery to a private party in addition to the existing system.
When it comes to non-payment of bills, the cases are higher among the post-paid consumers compared to the pre-paid, he said.
Online payment issue resolved
With regard to the online payment hiccups, the executive engineer said the matter has been resolved. The department changed software in July last year, and during the transition period from old software to the new software, it faced some hiccups. But now all those issues have been resolved, Longkumer said.
“Disconnection drives will go on every day, but in the case of line maintenance works, they will be attended to. The intensive disconnection drive will continue until March 31, when the department has to show revenue collection to the government,” he added.