Punjab lost an estimated Rs 880 crore in two years due to electricity theft in areas under ruling Shiromani Akali Dal legislators with the constituencies of the Badal family reporting the biggest losses, a confidential document of the state power agency shows.
Sources said officials did not act to stem the power theft as they were wary of conducting checks in areas ruled by influential politicians of the SAD, which is in power in the state in alliance with the BJP.
Enforcement team were assaulted and locked up in Majitha and Bhikhiwind but no FIR was registered, officials told HT.
HT has seen the internal document prepared by the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) on its “distribution losses” which is the difference between the amount of energy delivered to the distribution system from the transmission system and the amount of energy customers are billed.
The revelation could provide fodder to the SAD’s political rivals, especially the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress, in the run up to the assembly polls due early next year.
The “losses” would also come as an embarrassment to the BJP as its government at the Centre led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen on radical power sector reforms with an aim of lighting every home in the country by 2019. Tracking rural power usage is part of the reforms sought by the Modi government.
The document, officially called the management information report (MIR), shows that chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s constituency, Lambi, suffered around 32% distribution loss, much higher than the state average of 12.71% in 2015-16. The corporation has a Badal division which supplies uninterrupted power to Lambi.
In Jalalabad, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal’s constituency, PSPCL reported 31% distribution losses in 2014-15, which came down marginally to 28.94% in 2015-16.
“The distribution losses clearly show that power is being pilfered in powerful Akali-represented areas. It’s not technical loss as management always uses best distribution lines and system in areas of chief minister and deputy chief minister,” said Padamjit Singh, a retired chief engineer.
According to officials, the primary reason for distribution losses is pilferage followed by defective meters and errors in meter-reading. Technical reasons include power due lost due to resistance in wires.
The document showed that the losses are maximum, between 30% to 40%, in divisions where powerful Akalis are ministers.
The highest distribution loss of 38% was recorded in Malout, also an Akali-ruled area.
“The PSPCL top brass is aware of theft in these segments. The MIR report of last six years clearly indicates that losses in PSPCL’s Badal division have remained above 30%. However, our officers are helpless,” a corporation official said, pleading anonymity.
The losses in these areas adversely affect consumers in other parts of the state as the corporation is forced to hike power rates to recover losses due to unbilled amount and pilferage, sources said.
PSPCL chairman-cum-managing director KD Chaudhry said the total losses of the corporation have come down from 15.96% to 14.11% in one year.
On the distribution losses in Akali- dominated areas, he said unbilled power also includes free electricity being provided to the agriculture sector.
“I will be in a better position to comment after going through the report,” he said.