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LAHORE: The ministry of water and power has agreed in principle to provide Rangers to two major Punjab-based power distribution companies (Discos) to recover about Rs20 billion dues from defaulters.

The ministry agreed after the top officials of the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) and Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) told it clearly that without Rangers’ help, the recovery from ‘powerful defaulters’ was impossible.

Official sources said the Discos took up the issue with the water and power ministry after the companies wrote letters directly to Punjab Rangers’ authorities who asked them to come through the interior ministry.

If provided, the Rangers, besides recovering the default amount would also help the Discos take action against those involved in electricity theft, the sources said.

“We had written a letter to the Punjab Rangers directly. They refused to provide force, referring us to proceed through the interior ministry. So we took up the issue with our ministry (water and power) during a meeting with the federal secretary, who, later, discussed the matter with the interior ministry. And finally it [the interior ministry] agreed,” a senior Lesco official told Dawn on Wednesday.

“Thereafter, we were asked by our ministry to submit a written request to it so that the matter could be taken up with the relevant ministry. So both Lesco and Mepco wrote letters to the ministry. And now our ministry is in contact with the interior [ministry] these days in this regard,” the official, who requested anonymity, added.

He said during meeting with the federal secretary [for water and power], the issue was actually raised by Mepco that was in more trouble than Lesco. In various service areas of Mepco, including Rajanpur, defaulters were also allegedly involved in other crimes.

In Lesco, a majority of defaulters is residing in rural areas of Kasur and Okara districts and most of them are farmers. And they don’t bother anyone whether from Lesco, Mepco or police. They are neither paying bills nor letting anyone cut their electricity supply. Besides this, they continue to steal electricity from 11kV transmission lines, he said.

“Hopefully, the [interior] ministry will soon send Rangers to Lesco and Mepco. And as soon as we get them, a grand operation will be launched,” the official added.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2017