Here’s a marker of the UT electricity department’s seriousness towards solving Chandigarh’s power problem. Its lone fault- locating van, bought for Rs 40 lakh in 1995, has been gathering dust, awaiting repairs or replacement, at the department’s Sector-26 office for three years now.
Lack of such a van, loaded with a machine that locates faults when moved along a supply line, hampers work seriously, as most trippings take long hours to solve primarily because it’s hard to find the trouble spot. As a result, the department spends Rs 20,000 a day to hire a similar van from Punjab or from a Delhi-based private company mostly.
Sources said the van has been hired 30 times in the past year and a half alone. According to a senior official of the department, since getting the machine takes time, “It takes us days to fix faults that can be redressed in a few hours.”
The issue was also taken up at a recent public hearing session of the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC) that oversees UTs’ power departments. When contacted, UT superintending engineer MP Singh said the department had invited tenders for a new machine twice but failed to evoke response. “We are shortly going to float another tender,” claimed Singh. A new machine, it is learnt, would be worth around Rs 2 crore.
Besides this, the department is also grappling with acute shortage of material, thus making things difficult for the staff. As per official records, 176 items are listed in the stock register maintained by the department; most are out of stock. Among the unavailable material are basic items such as meters, cables, insulators, tube-holders and starters.
Consumers are compelled to purchase cables of required gauge for connecting the meter with the electricity pole. There is also a scarcity of transformers. Worse, there are a total of 14 complaint centres in the city, but the department has just four vehicles fitted with boom ladders.
Criticising the department for “lax attitude”, UT Powermen Union’s general secretary, Gopal Dutt Joshi said, “How can the department expect us to deliver when the staff is not provided with even basic items?” UT finance secretary VK Singh had held a meeting with the staff of the department on Tuesday in which he was apprised about the problems being faced by the field staff due to shortage of material.