Translating Order into Action
The Power department has once again notified electricity consumers, including government offices, in Kohima and Dimapur to clear the bills on time, warning that it would carry out raids and disconnection drive for non-payment of electricity bills, power theft through hooking, meter tampering and other illegal activities on a daily basis, starting from January 10. This is a much-needed move, considering the fact that Nagaland has been reeling under severe power crisis for years now, mainly due to irresponsible energy usage and rampant theft by consumers. However, this is also not the first time such a notification has been issued. The state government had carried out such exercises in the past. What we don’t know is the result of such moves. As per the Electricity Act 2003, consumers found using power illegally are punishable with imprisonment for a term that can be extended up to three years, or with fine, or both, but there is no report of action being taken against the defaulters, thus casting doubts about the effectiveness of department notifications and actions. It won’t be surprising if citizens continue to take the government’s orders for granted, having experienced similar situations on several occasions before. The availability of several escape routes for habitual defaulters, either through use of social connections or other means, has resulted in utter disregard for the rule of law in general, not only in power consumption. The state government and the enforcement agencies should address this issue by setting a precedent for future cases through strict implementation of law.
The people of the state, especially from urban areas, have been complaining about erratic power supply. It’s a genuine concern. Basic facilities like uninterrupted power supply, good communication system and all-weather roads are must for any economy to prosper. However, it is clear that the power issue faced by the people is their own making. The concerned department had repeatedly asked the consumers to pay their electricity bills on time to enjoy a stable power supply but in vain. This attitude has to change to see change. It is a fact that the government spends at least a few hundred crores of rupees on power purchase annually, as the state generates just a fraction of its energy requirement, compounded by theft. Sensing the impending deterioration of the crisis, the state government has taken up some power generation projects, but meeting the growing demand will be a herculean task in the absence of co-operation from consumers. So, the citizens should learn to pay for the services they receive; only then can they hold the concerned authorities accountable for any failure. The department’s decision to address power theft menace, starting with Kohima and Dimapur is a move in the right direction, as these two main urban settlements account for major chunk of the state’s power consumption. However, it’s to be seen if the order will remain on paper like in the past or be translated into action.