Power Thieves To Be Booked From Jan 123 December 2015
Srinagar: Amid public outcry over long and frequent power cuts, Power Development Department (PDD) has decided to book people found guilty of power theft from January 1. Officials confirmed that government has decided to book the offenders under the J&K State Electricity Regularity Act (JKSERA) of 2010, which provides provision of legal action against those who misuse the electricity and resort to theft. The offenders can face imprisonment of upto five years and fine. In August, the State Vigilance Commission (SVC) had directed the government to register criminal cases against those engaged in power theft. The commission had given the directions after taking serious view of 258 pending vigilance complaints with PDD. While PDD has announced what some call as 'severe punishment' for Kashmiri consumers, the government apparently has no plan to act in similar vein in power pilferage cases of Jammu. PDD has already started media campaign with regard to strict enforcement of JKSERA, cautioning consumers to refrain from resorting to hooking and other means of power pilferage. 'PDD has strengthened its inspection squads. Now apart from metered areas, inspection will be carried out in non-metered localities, while those found resorting to power theft will be booked under J&K State Electricity Regularity Act(JKSERA) of 2010 by virtue of which apart from fine, the offenders can face imprisonment,' reads the advertisement published in Srinagar-based dailies. PDD inspection squads will be assisted by personnel from concerned police stations. Sources said Commissioner Secretary PDD Dheeraj Gupta was pressing for registration of FIRs in power theft cases in the Valley. Subsequently, a meeting was held at the office of Divisional Commissioner Kashmir on December 4 to review power scenario in Kashmir. Though as per protocol, the meeting was to be chaired by Divisional Commissioner, Asgar Hassan Samoon. However, since he was not present in his office, Dheeraj Gupta chaired the meeting. Apart from others Inspector General of Police Kashmir Javaid Mujtaba Geelani and Chief Engineer PDD Kashmir Bashir Ahmed Khan were also present. The meeting resolved that the main cause of Valley being plunged into darkness was power theft which can be overcome only if the offenders are booked. 'It was the unanimous opinion of the committee that the prime cause of all ailments in the system is power theft-pilferage by one way or the other. Accordingly a strong, efficient, methodological and result oriented drive is inevitable. ... Severe punishment needs to be imposed for power theft including lodging of FIRs,' reads the copy of the minutes of the meeting. It was also decided that the option of publishing names of defaulters in the leading newspapers of the Valley shall also be explored. Sources said though PDD intensified inspections, booking of offenders under JKSERA was being avoided given the 'long term consequences of such severe punishment' when people are already up in arms over implementation of National Food Security Act. However, on December 17, a minister from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party is understood to have asked the PDD to strictly go ahead with the directives. Officials said the minister gave the directions when he was asked if the registration of FIRs could create any law and order problem in the Valley. 'Don't worry about fallouts, you just crush the power theft with iron hand,' the minister, as per insiders, responded to PDD query. The same day the minister issued an official handout asking PDD to act strictly against power theft. With the minister's green signal, PDD is bracing to start lodging of FIRs from January 1. 'We have given breather to the offenders to mend their ways. But no one should expect sympathy from January 1 because we have resolved zero tolerance to power pilferage,' the official said. 'Going to jail can never be a better option so I request consumes to act wisely,' he added.