Sunday July 21, 2024

Drive against power theft yields Rs7.89bn so far

Criticism of campaign is widespread, with allegations that it primarily targets low-income individuals and small-scale offenders

By Israr Khan
September 24, 2023
Men work on electric pylons along the roadside in Karachi on May 30, 2021. — AFP/File
Men work on electric pylons along the roadside in Karachi on May 30, 2021. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The government’s ongoing campaign against power theft, which commenced on September 7, has yielded a total recovery of 7.89 billion rupees. However, the pace of recovery seems sluggish, given that the government is tasked to reclaim a staggering Rs589 billion from defaulters.

Criticism of the campaign is widespread, with allegations that it primarily targets low-income individuals and small-scale offenders, while the major culprits, who have evaded repayment for years and in millions and billions, appear to be shielded from punitive measures.

These prominent defaulters are often believed to have political or other influential backing, thereby escaping significant scrutiny. Many of them are industrialists with substantial outstanding debts in billions of rupees. It is worth noting that during the tenure of PMLN-led government in 2017, the Power Division compiled a list of major defaulters, including influential industrialists and politicians. At that time, efforts were made to apprehend and recover from them, but these endeavors proved unsuccessful.

Presently, the campaign is in full swing; however, the current government has neither disclosed the identities of these major defaulters nor made substantial progress in recovering amount from them during the past 16 days.

Power Division Secretary Rashid Mahmood Langrial shared an update through an official handle on Saturday, reporting a total recovery of Rs7.88 billion. He said, “This campaign is not about fines and recovery; it is about modifying the free-lunch behaviour. Real payoff will be measurable by the middle of next month due to the limitation of monthly billing and payment cycle.”

Since September 7, more than 15,000 first information reports (FIRs) have been lodged against individuals involved in power theft, leading to the apprehension of 2,300 suspects. The highest number of FIRs were recorded within the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) jurisdiction, totaling 5,878, followed by Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) with 3,889 FIRs, Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) with 1,790, Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco) with 1,472, Gujranwala Electric Power Company (Gepco) with 805, Sukkur Electric Supply Company with 362, Quetta Electric Supply Company (Qesco) with 323, Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) with 315, Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco) with 176, and Tribal Electric Supply Company (Tesco) with 37 FIRs.

The recovery figures from various power companies are as follows: Lesco at Rs2.02 billion, Hesco at Rs1.5 billion, Pesco at Rs1.095 billion, Mepco at Rs1.086 billion, Sepco at Rs910.5 million, Qesco at Rs392 million, Fesco at Rs340.3 million, Gepco at Rs325 million, Iesco at Rs190.76 million, and Tesco with a recovery of Rs31.8 million.

In response to the tweet by the secretary, nearly everyone demanded action against employees of the power distribution companies (Discos) who are aiding in power theft.

A commentator Muhammad Irfan Malik said, “What action is being taken against the insiders who are in the right hands of these power thieves? They should be sent behind the bars too. How can a government official/ officer be an enemy of the state?” Shahbaz Ali asked, “What actions against officials responsible for their area?” Rafique A Khaskheli asked how many Discos officials have so far been punished and kicked out from the organisation, without whom support and collaboration no electricity theft is possible?

Another person commented that number of arrested persons against registered cases is amazingly low. It means they are very influential people and the police are not doing well.

Nadir Shah said, “You people are doing a great job. Why were these actions not taken earlier?” Another citizen lauded the effort saying, “Good effort. It has to be sustainable however.”