HYDERABAD: Imposition of considerably heavy fine by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) on the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) has in fact vindicated the stance of power

consumers in the 12 districts falling within Hesco’s domain that its inefficient service delivery is jeopardising lives of the general public.

Eversince the July 22 tragedy — in which 10 people had lost their lives when a pole-mounted transformer exploded and caught fire in Latifabad — Hesco is yet to come up with a qualitative change in its performance. It continues to get a flak from consumers and elected leadership across the Hyderabad region. And it is in spite of the fact that the power utility is now headed by a private sector chief executive officer (CEO), Rehan Hamid. Even the new CEO is yet to make his presence felt.

After the July 22 incident, the Hesco management decided to stop getting its transformers repaired from unauthorised workshops and workers. It’s failure to maintain prescribed safety standards is reflected in the show-cause notice issued to the utility and imposition of a fine of Rs26m – perhaps the highest ever Hesco is slapped with.

In a similar tragedy on Jun 18, three children had lost their lives in another area of the city. Back to back incidents of falling of pole-mounted transformers continued to be reported until recently though without any casualties.

“The new CEO banks on an SDO-level officer in running his management. So, what kind of qualitative change one can expect from the boss of this power utility which is facing a host of issues,” commented a senior Hesco officer, who was given new posting by the ministry.

The officer has been posted as the material management manager. A central leader of Paigham, the non-CBA union, Sajjan Panhwar had levelled charges of inefficiency against the Hesco chief. But a sitting member of Hesco’s board of director (BoD) has put it more succinctly while requesting anonymity. “We can say that Hesco CEO has a potential of handling a boat but he has been tasked with managing a Titanic,” he said alluding to British giant ship that had sunk in 1912.

“Secondly, elements with questionable profile are surrounding him”, he said, he said, adding that surprisingly, the BoD did not fix responsibility on anyone over the July 22 tragedy. Only a one-page report of Abdul Ahad, a chief engineer, was shared in a WhatsApp group and was not accepted by BoD members as it was only a narration of facts. Mr Ahad was supposed to hold an inquiry.

According to Hesco spokesman, the power utility is now getting transformers repaired from authorised companies in the Hala Naka area and Kotri, Jamshoro. This has lessened the ratio of burning of transformers. He also claimed that tenders for procurement of transformers of varying voltage had been okayed by the Hesco management.

Hesco has paid a compensation of Rs750,000 the heirs of each deceased person following the July 22 incident. Nepra has now asked it to pay a fine of Rs3.5m to the each one which is equivalent to what a deceased Hesco employee’s family receives in case of death in the line of duty.

The inquiry ordered by Hesco chief remained inconclusive and Mr Ahad is not working in the power utility anymore. “Even otherwise he was not getting required cooperation in the inquiry into the incident from Hesco management,” said a source close to him.

Fragility of Hesco’s network is well established. Power consumers across the Hyderabad region bear with power outages of long duration every day with Hesco coming up with its conventional claim of ‘switching off’ the system as a precautionary measure in case of windstorm, showers or downpour.

A shortage of staff is another big issue with the result that Hesco’s sub-divisional staff engages private persons, who work alongside Hesco staff.

“Hesco didn’t invest in its power distribution network,” remarked a member of the BoD. He said that tenders were now approved for procurement of 6,000 transformers and other equipment. “This is going to be a big procurement in recent times.” he added.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2021

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