The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL, also Powercom) hardly misses an opportunity to slap hefty fines on farmers using electricity illegally to operate tubewells, especially during the paddy season; however, at times, the fines imposed so do not justify the action.
Over and above that powercom engineers — instead of acknowledging their own shortcomings and withdrawing the fine imposed — are “threatening consumers (farmers) with the registration of an FIR (first information report) if they failed to pay the fine”.
This is precisely what happened with Jaswant Singh, a farmer owning three acre at Baath village in the district.
On July 28, a powercom team raided Jaswant Singh’s tubewell and imposed a fine of `68,484 for allegedly stealing power from an alternate power line in the absence of an authorised electric connection for his tubewell.
A 15-day deadline was set by the powercom team for Jaswant to pay the outstanding amount, after which “a compound fee of `10,000 would be added to the principal amount and an FIR would also be registered” against him.
While admitting his fault, Jaswant blamed it on the powercom, which failed to clear his application for a tubewell connection.
He produced the relevant documents and payment receipts before Hindustan Times on Wednesday to buttress his claim that the fault was in fact on the part of powercom.
The documents made it categorically clear that Jaswant had vide receipt No. 200 paid an amount of `1.15 lakh on May 10 last for a new tubewell connection after his case was cleared by a powercom inspection panel.
In February, a private company on behalf of the powercom had installed four electricity poles fitted with overhead wires between the farmer’s tubewell and the transmission line coming from the Tarasinghwala feeder.
“I kept doing rounds of powercom office, pleading with officials to supply the requisite power to my tubewell but they made only excuses. Now with a drought-like situation in our area due to scanty rain, I had to get electricity from somewhere to operate my tubewell or else my paddy would have perished,” claimed Jaswant, while squarely blaming powercom engineers for his action.
Kirti Kisan Union district secretary Dhanwant Singh, who belongs to the same village, alleged that there were a number of people in his village who were stealing power. However, the powercom only chose to target Jaswant, as he had no political backing.
Dhanwant threatened, “We demand justice for Jaswant, else we will start a protest dharna outside the DC office in here.”
Powercom superintendent engineer (SE) NS Bal said the case would be reviewed and if the lapse was on the part of powercom, the fine would be withdrawn. However, he directed the defaulter to deposit one-third of the outstanding amount for his case to be put up before the review committee.
Dhawant said now Jaswant was not in position to pay even the one-third amount. He was debt –ridden as he had borrowed money for getting a tubewell connection.