TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI - tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com
Jan 21 - 27, 2008

Halved by power theft, over thirty four percent power loss in generated electricity of thermal power plants of KESC and of other sources primarily unleashes sequels of load shadings and power outages for the citizens. This also causes financial losses to the electricity supplier in addition to unwrapping costs of retrofitting, repairs, and replacements of transmission infrastructure. Although, power theft is an abrasive issue across the nation its remedial measures are not seriously taken. Its impact is largely seen in Karachi that is a pivotal hub of nation's industrial activities. In spite of assigned limit of consuming electricity to companies, excessive and non-paid usage has been reported several times. The power theft is routinely done not only in companies and for running beyond ceiling large scale industrial processes but also in households and by non-commercial users. Inability and inefficiency of vigilance operation to detect power theft makes genuine and bona fide electricity users experience unnecessary outages and misfit tariffs. Apart from this, users are knowingly or unknowingly causing ferocious nuisances for their compatriots. Knowingly it is when they steal electricity to cut down monthly bills. And unknowingly it is, when they are ignorant and inconsiderate of doing it so. Later group of people are formed by those who are inspired with corruption and its windfalls. At a principal stance tending not to fall in unlawful acts, they find it opportune sailing along with winds afterwards. Often, citizens complain of over-charged bills.

Meter Tempering: Meter tempering and manipulation in meter readings are practicable methods of power theft. ėKundaķ (hook) system is yet another form of it dangerously adopted to have power supply for commercial and non-commercial usage, which disturbs transmission line on one hand and adds on KESC's deficits on the other. Unconcerned of life-risk, the indulger hangs wire off running transmission line to grab power supply unscrupulously. Sometimes, power theft is an organized activity committed in collusion with staff members of electricity supplier.

Talking to this scribe in Karachi, a person enjoying a fixed monthly electricity bill of his homegrown production, informed, "He pays Rs. 1500 on monthly basis to a lineman while keeps on running round the clock his power looms for making cloths." He has numerous power-run gadgets in his house besides cloth maker. Though initially linemen are reluctant to get into any kind of "sidelined" arrangements with subscribers, with a buildup trust after a while they acquiesce reconciles, he summed up. He said line man is not his own for making money (viz. bribe) since he must share the amount with "others". This is not an exceptional case as there are many others who through meter tempering manage to scale electricity bill down if having not found an agreeable lineman. Along with, many shanty towns involve in act of stealing electricity multiplying operational loss of KESC and causing power outages in spiral effects around the city. Since, majority of these settlements have no legitimate access to electricity ėKundaķ or "electricity-sharing" would provide a good substitute to them. It is noteworthy that there are over 700 Katchi Abaddies (shanty towns) citywide. Another person told this scribe that he had unworriedly left his ACs switched on throughout winter; after all he had to flash out a fixed amount only once in a month.

It was too sure to KESC that replacements of outdated meters might have resolved the problem. Instead, people are still able to manipulate (meter) readings. Meter tempering is quite easy because of it is installed at consumer's place. By installing them on stations and sub-stations if can not avert loss of power entirely, can reduce the extent. It was reported in a media report that cantonment board of Hyderabad had planned to install consumer's meters at particular terminals in order to record accurate measurements of electricity consumption.

"So far no visible improvement has been noticed in relation to curb power theft," a senior spokesperson of the KESC said while talking to PAGE. It is an ongoing process. He said power failure is mainly due to gap between demand and supply. Despite he kept his comments reserved on causes of inequality, "It is evident who largely indulge in power theft: commercial or non-commercial users," he equivocated. He said Karachi's power consumption is in between 1,600 and 1,700 Mega Watts.

It seems that malpractice of stealing is deliberately condoned off by regulators since conspicuously people siphon off transmitting utility at ease. Astonishing is the fact that KESC has its own patrolling vigilant force to check and monitor power theft. The vigilance force is tasked to raid at theft scenes. They are fully empowered to identify miscalculated figures given by subscribers. They are different from meter readers. KESC is dependent on assessment reports submitted by the force. Due to discretionary mandate, often fabricated assessment reports are forwarded for final action.

One of a member of the vigilant team confided to this scribe, "I have not manipulator palmed my grease ever, but of course others engage in asking for kickbacks from those, we find guilty." It is up to their discretion to levy on-spot penalties on uncompromising consumers. KESC hauls up such manipulators and levies on them heavy charges. Often, genuine and bona fide consumers have to bear the brunt. The power failures and its subsequent effects create problems for all. Electric supplier ought to raise tariff of electricity to compensate operational losses. These consumers have to consequently pay extra bills for consuming same units.

SUGGESTIONS: Power theft is remained an impressing problem alike for KESC and its subscribers. KESC has to take stringent and forthright actions to stop instances of it. Companies can be restricted to utilize cutoff limits if they are offered with compensatory packages and incentives. However it is difficult to match seven percent annual growing demand of electricity, iron handed action against abusers can abridge demand-supply gap. It should ensure that its vigilant team must not willfully neglect illegitimate acts and be inclined towards bribery. Rather, anti-graft committee should be established to keep check on entry level workforce as in this case power theft is aggravated because of their negligence.