LAHORE: The federal government has decided to launch a crackdown “with full force” against electricity theft across the country to tame mounting technical and commercial losses being faced by the power distribution companies, Dawn has learnt.

The interim government, facing the ire of agitated masses over inflated electricity bills in August, has been mulling its options — although limited — to placate the people who have been out on streets across the country.

A Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) spokesman confirmed the development, stating the plan to “eliminate power theft with full force” was finalised in a meeting chaired by Federal Power Division Secretary Rashid Mahmood Langrial on Tuesday.

The meeting approved the action plan, aimed at making the power sector “free of losses”, especially those incurred due to commercial power theft, causing a loss of Rs600 billion annually.

High-level moot concerned over distribution firms’ poor recovery figures

An official, who requested anonymity, told Dawn the crackdown “with zero-tolerance” was set to start in a day or two across the country.

The meeting was attended by the chief executive officers of all 10 distribution companies (Discos), the chief secretaries and police chiefs of all provinces and other senior officials of the division.

The official said the federal secretary briefed the participants about revenue collection, line losses — both technical and commercial — and infrastructure constraints which have been plaguing the power system for a long time.

He cited poor bill recovery, massive line losses, lawlessness, resistance from power thieves, lack of police cooperation and support from civil administration and other problems contributing to the mounting losses.

Mr Langrial expressed grave concern over massive power theft and poor revenue collection in the service areas of Peshawar, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Quetta and the Tribal electric supply companies.

“The secretary also briefed the participants about the government’s action plan to eliminate all sorts of losses, especially power theft, by all means and using all resources in collaboration with the civil administration and police,” added the official.

The Discos’ CEOs were directed to identify areas where electricity was being stolen directly from the 11kV distribution lines or the low-tension cables.

The meeting also agreed on strict action against criminals resisting the operation against power theft and attacking officials.

According to the Lesco spokesman, the federal secretary took notice of the attack on a Lesco executive engineer by some power thieves at a consumer court.

Similar attacks were reported from other areas where Lesco officials were thrashed by power thieves. The secretary asked the provincial chief secretaries and police chiefs to help Discos in arresting and punishing these criminals.

The meeting decided to immediately constitute teams in all sub-divisions of Discos across the country. The teams will include officers of civil administration and police.

Committees will also be formed at the local level to deal with women offering resistance during any action against power theft.

“This decision was taken after the Lesco CEO told the secretary about Mohallah Kakkay Zai, a locality in Lahore’s Shahdara area where women used to confront officials alongside their men and children whenever teams visited the area to take down illegal connections,” the official explained.

Most residents in that locality were allegedly involved in power theft and it was almost “a no-go area” for Lesco teams, the official added. The meeting agreed that an exemplary crackdown should be carried out, even by force, if needed, to weed out power theft.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2023

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