Chances of timely and complete redressal of city residents' complaints pertaining to power services seem remote with the otherwise cash-rich and overstaffed UT electricity department facing acute shortage of material.
As per official records, 176 items are listed in the stock register maintained by the department and of these majority items are out of stock. Among the unavailable material are basic items such as power meters, cables, insulators, tube holders and starters.
It is consumers who are bearing the brunt of shortage of material. As per rules, the department has to provide electricity meters for a new connection or as replacement for defective equipment. Against the rules, the department is directing consumers to purchase electricity meters on their own from a particular shop and deposit it along with the cash memo with the electricity department.
Similarly, the consumers are compelled to purchase cables of required gauge for connecting the meter with electricity pole. There is also a scarcity of transformers.
The issue of shortage of material was also taken up by the Chandigarh Beopar Mandal (CBM) in a public hearing session recently. Vinod Joshi, a senior member of CBM, said the administration should ensure that all items are in the stock so that consumers are not forced to purchase material on their own.
UT superintending engineer MP Singh said they have placed orders for meters, cables and other material. Procurement of material is a long-drawn process and due to technical reasons it gets delayed, he added.
Not amused with the delay in purchase of material, the joint electricity regulatory commission (JERC) has directed the department to speed up the process and that non-compliance of the order will be taken seriously.
The electricity department has also been directed to compile a report to highlight cases along with the present facts, reason for delay in procurement of meters and cables and what action they intend to take for addressing the problem.
Electricity department overstaffed
While all departments of the UT administration are grappling with the shortage of staff, the electricity department is overstaffed if JERC is to be believed.
As of now, there are around 1,200 employees in the department.
According to JERC, the electricity department is overstaffed since 1990-91 when one employee was catering to 73 customers. Though the area of the city has unchanged the density of consumers per sq km has increased over the years.
Despite increase in the population, one employee is catering to 199 consumers while the national average of number of employees per 1,000 consumers is 1:2,500.
On the request of the department, the commission had last year approved recruitment of 207 employees. However, the department only made three fresh recruitments. It did not go down well with the commission and it observed, "Since only three recruitments were made, it appears that the department does not require additional manpower as it is already overstaffed."