Power theft in Nagaland: Police to take action on defaulters
‘Citizens are more concerned about rights but do not talk about duties’
Dimapur, Aug. 27 (EMN): To tackle the issue of rampant power theft in Dimapur, the Power department will “pull the administrative mechanism” by bringing in the police forces to take action on defaulters as per the Electricity Act, 2003.
This was stated by the principal secretary of Power department, KD Vizo, during a meeting held at SLDC complex in Nagarjan, Dimapur, on Friday.
Citing the department not being able to collect even 50% revenue due to power theft while power consumption keeps increasing in Dimapur, Vizo said a special team to be led by Additional Secretary Mohammed Ali has been set up tackle the issue, improve revenue collection and ensure effective management of power system in Dimapur district.
He also shared that “lethargic culture” had been observed among the staff of the department. On this, the special team will monitor the attendance of the staff, including the meter readers and billing assistance, and take necessary action on those found not performing their duties.
Terming it as the last option, Vizo said the department wanted to implement this experiment as they believed they could solve the problem but added that “if it does not work well, in the end we have to privatise it”.
To serve public, he said they would undertake a study in the initial stage, prepare a plan, find out serious cases and then take action. He added that awareness programme would also be carried out inform the public about energy-saving methods.
He maintained that the Power department was also responsible (for the issue) and “we are ready to digest our weaknesses”. He cited instanced wherein some people wanted to pay the bill but couldn’t as the staff failed to generate bill due wrong mapping, and then the company and engineer started blaming each another.
Vizo opined that the percentage of air conditioner (AC) users in Dimapur could be even higher than in advanced countries. He added that “we are living beyond our means”.
‘In the course of the action, we need public support to ensure that our revenue grows at least to some extent,’ he added.
‘Rich people are main problem’
The principal secretary said that there is constant power shutdown in Dimapur due to power theft by two types of people — the poor and the rich — “and the problem we are facing is the rich people who use AC and other business houses who steal power by concealing the wires”.
The population of Dimapur is not 50% of the state but the power consumption is more than 50% of the state’s total consumption, he asserted, while reminding that revenue leakage is so huge.
He maintained that technically, through transformer, they were aware of the power going to a particular colony or area and also the amount of power theft in a particular area but only the house-to-house assessment of power usage is pending, and for that “we are trying technology intervention where 10.000 prepaid metres is under installation and people have started using”. He said that many people are unwilling to use prepaid meter.
It’s not Welfare department – Ayemi
The advisor of Power department, H Tovihoto Ayemi asserted that consumers are not paying and “our department is not a welfare department”. A small state like Nagaland hardly has any revenue, and spending over INR 400 crore on power and not generating any revenue is also hampering development, he said.
He further appealed to the district administration and the police to assist the Power department to see if there can be any transformation; and also asked the apex civil society organisations to collaborate and help one another.
‘People don’t talk about duties’
The deputy commissioner of Dimapur, Rajesh Soundararajan, stated that the citizens are more concerned about their rights, which is good thing as the departments need to be pressured to perform their duties. “But what we do not discuss is about our duties,” he added.
He lamented that the situation would only get worse and the vicious cycle would continue if the trend of undermining one’s duties continues.
He asserted that ‘it is our right to have good power infrastructure but it is also our duty that the revenue is collected’. He also assured all possible support from the district administration to strengthen the power sector.
Causes of revenue gap
A senior official from the Power department informed that the factors responsible for the vast revenue gap were: Power theft (20%), no meter reading (40%), and non-payment (40%).
He said that revenue deficit leads to inadequate fund for purchasing required power, maintenance and infrastructure, thus hampering the mission to provided uninterrupted power supply.
Clarifying the concern raised by the public on prepaid metering, he said that ‘it allows one to pay what one consumes and that will also contribute to infrastructure development and improvement, enable better consumer servicing and power supply by the department’.
He went on to inform that ‘smart prepaid metering is now mandatory as per the Union Pinistry of Power, which has set the timeline for consumers to install smart prepayment mode for December 2023’
As an introductory process, installing of 19,000 prepaid meters has started in Dimapur and Kohima under GOI funding, he added.