Released in August 2014, ‘Katiyabaaz’, an internationally acclaimed Hindi documentary film directed by Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa, had beautifully depicted the problem of power pilferage in Kanpur.
Loha Singh, the main character, is depicted as the one providing illegal power connections (’katiyas’) to the poor even as KESCo managing director Ritu Maheshwari tries hard to deal with the problem that not only causes revenue loss to the department but also often results in load shedding.
Maheshwari, an IAS officer, was then posted as KESCo MD.
Five years on, the UP Power Corporation Ltd (UPPCL), which owns KESCo and four other discoms, continues to reel under the same problem and tries to find ways to deal with ‘Loha Singhs’, the ‘katiyabaaz’ who are present not only in Kanpur but everywhere in the state.
Having realised that conducting surprise raids and dismantling ‘katiya’ cables is not an effective solution to the problem, UPPCL has now come up with a new scheme that seeks to regularise such illegal connections.
From July 1, UPPCL will launch a state-wide campaign to convert ‘katiyas’ into legal or formal connections after people using illegal connections make self-declaration about power pilfering by tapping into official power lines.
UPPCL managing director Arpana U has written a letter to all the discoms briefing them about the new scheme and asking them to implement it effectively.
Titled “Katiya hatao, connection pao” (Remove illegal connection and get a legal one), the new scheme is being launched for two months, from July 1 to August 30, to regularise all electricity connections that people are using illegally as ‘katiyas’.
In a letter dated June 22, the MD said: “The proposed scheme seeks to issue regular connections to citizens bringing them in the billing network of distribution companies to reduce commercial technical losses.”
The scheme, however, comes with certain conditions. The facility of getting ‘katiyas’ regularised will be available in cities and villages only to domestic consumers for a load up to 1 kw. This means any urban or rural domestic consumer will be given only a formal electricity connection of not more than 1 kw after he declares a ‘katiya’ connection to get it formalised.
Also, the distance of the premises for which a formal connection is being sought should not be more than 40 m from the LT line, it should have no arrears pending against an old power connection, and the premises should not be legally disputed. Besides, slums and hutments will be issued electricity connections only with prepaid energy meters.
UPPCL issued more than one crore free electricity connections to all the willing rural households under Saubhagya Scheme and now claims 100% household electrification. But nearly 25% unwilling households are said to have refused to subscribe to a formal connection in villages and cities for different reasons that include the cost of power and fear of getting inflated bills.
A UPPCL official requesting anonymity said, “All such consumers continue to use electricity through ‘katiyas’ often in connivance with our own Loha Singh (department staff).”
It is interesting to note that in the MoU for the Ujjawal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDA), the Centre’s bailout package given to discoms in 2016 to rid them of their debts, the UPPCL gave it in writing that there existed 84 lakh unformalised (’katiya’) connections in the state, which was half the number of legal connections.[Courtesy:Hindustan times]