PIL seeks to prevent power thefts by Mumbai mandals during festivals
The Bombay High Court today issued notices to Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) and others on a PIL alleging power thefts in the state during Ganesh and Navratri festivals by public mandals and praying for a check to stop such illegal practices.
Besides MSEB, a division bench issued notices to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST), making them returnable on September 3.
The PIL, filed by ex-journalist Ketan Tirodkar, alleged during Ganesh and Navratri festivals, public mandals collect huge amounts as donations for organising celebrations.
Despite hefty donations, these mandals are given heavy concessions in power usage by the state power utilities such as MSEB and BEST.
BEST and MSEB suffer distribution losses to the tune of 15 per cent overall and 50 per cent in some pockets.
These are mainly due to power thefts resorted by 'sarvajanik (public)' mandals during festivals, the PIL alleged.
Mumbai's demand for power is around 2,600 MW and the Power supply companies, Tata Power Company and Reliance Energy Ltd, are able to provide only 2,300 MW at present.
Besides, the state is facing power shortage of around 3,000-3,500 MW during morning and evening peak hours.
Arguing in person, Tirodkar said MSEB had filed a petition before the government claiming it cannot meet 150 MW shortfall in Mumbai. He contended that the state was facing 3,000 MW deficit and needed more power for distribution.
Tirodkar contended that the high court in earlier orders had issued guidelines for checking power thefts jointly by police and BEST.
On July 21, 2010, the court had ordered setting up of a special cell comprising police, municipal officers and BEST offices to deal with power theft incidents. He said in July 2010 order, the court had cautioned that special cell is often created but it does not produce desired results and hence care should be taken to supervise its working and a periodic review taken of its performance.
However, despite this note of caution issued by the court, there has been a total failure of the special cell to check and prevent the theft of power during the Ganesh festival and Navratri, the PIL alleged.
It further alleged private consumers - residential and commercial - get hefty bills in many areas on account of these thefts during the post festival periods.
Also, the thefts from electricity poles go unrecorded. The petitioner said since Maharashtra was deficit in power it may have to draw power from neighbouring Gujarat.
Even in Thane rural district, there are many houses which are without electricity, although the island city of Mumbai has been given a special facility from the grid so that there is no power cut even as the whole state is in darkness.
The PIL urged that the respondents be directed to enforce special cells formed as per the orders of the High Court to carry out physical checks of sarvajanik Ganesh and Navrati mandals during the festivals to detect and prevent power thefts.