Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) teams on Sunday swooped down on villages in the Khemkaran and Valtoha areas of the district to catch farmers and villagers stealing electricity through illegal transformers.
The corporation is losing crores of rupees because of electricity theft during transmission. The raids in the two areas along the Pakistan border commenced on Saturday and continued on Sunday. It took a telephone call from Chandigarh to halt the raids but not before the Powercom team backed by police had uprooted many illegal transformers and disconnected the lines.
Officials of the district administration, including deputy commissioner BS Dhaliwal, senior superintendent of police Rajjit Singh, and the area subdivisional magistrate (SDM) supported the campaign. Fearing interference from political leaders, the members of the raiding party had set the busy tune on their mobile phones.
On the condition of anonymity, a senior Powercom official who was part of the raid told HT after getting home in the evening that the the illegal transformers were connected to 24-hour domestic electricity lines for feeding "behaks" (farm houses) and tube-wells, which was illegal. The 24-hour supply is meant for villages, for which panchayats deposit a certain amount with the PSPCL.
The facility can be extended to a cluster of houses outside the village after submission of the requisite fee. However, even a lone "behak" in the fields was getting the supply, free of cost.
The farmers had bought the transformers without informing the PSPCL and getting its sanction. The sets were connected by hook to the nearest 24-hour supply lines. For the connections to tube-wells, no payment had been made to the PSPCL, and the set-ups were drawing a lot of groundwater.
While the DC could not be contacted, SSP Rajjit Singh confirmed that Powercom raids had been conducted under police security. "Nearly 60 illegal transformers were uprooted, while farmhouse owners dismantled another 40 after hearing of the raids," he said, adding that no case had been registered against farmer, so far and no involvement of the PSPCL officials in the theft had yet come to light. The team uprooted 30-odd transformers at Lakana village alone. The plug was pulled at Ladho, Kalsia, Kalam, Bhagipura, Nathu and many other villages as well.
Cong demands inquiry
Punjab Youth Congress leader Anoop Bhullar, whose father, former minister Gurchet Singh Bhullar, was elected from the area, has demanded an inquiry into illegal electricity connections.
"For the past four years, we have been watching farmers installing own transformers and then connecting these to 24-hour-supply lines. It was done openly, which indicates political patronage to the crime," said Bhullar, adding that many farmers had also died connecting these sets to the high-tension lines. "It took just one telephone call from Chandigarh to halt the raids. While the applications of Congress supporters for tubewell connections are gathering dust, Akali supporters are stealing electricity because they have official backing," said Bhullar.