The Uttar Pradesh power sector, mired as it is in a perpetual state of crisis, has identified unmetered connections (katiya connections) to be one of the reasons for its bane. The extent of the problem can be understood by the fact that, of the UPPCL’s total consumer base of 281 lakh, about 25.93 lakh (9.23%) connections are unmetered.
Shockingly, Purvanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam (PuVVNL), the Varanasi discom that is soon going to be put out for bidding, accounts for 49.24% (1,27,6747) of these unmetered connections.
Moreover, of the total (11.95 lakh) unmetered connections, private tube wells (PTW) consumers account for 46% while the 54% (13.98 lakh) are the non-PTW consumers. In both the PTW and non-PTW categories, PuVVNL again takes the lead. While the discom accounts for about 10 lakh (71.5%) unmetered non-PTW connections, its unmetered PTW connections stand at 2,76,691.
Stating that metering is the biggest challenge in Purvanchal, the additional chief secretary (ACS) (energy) and the chairman of UP Power Corporation (UPPCL) Arvind Kumar, in a series of tweets said that the department was pushing hard to meter them by the end of the current financial year. “We want the proactive cooperation of these unmetered consumers for getting themselves metered for us to be able to do deliver correct bills,” said Kumar.
Meanwhile, to bring down distribution losses, the department has started taking strict action to control power theft in all the districts in the state and has one exclusive anti-power theft police station operational in each district for lodging of FIRs and investigation of offences under the Electricity Act.
“We have now operationalised 88 exclusive police vigilance teams across 75 districts which jointly with UPPCL officers have given teeth to our drive,” Kumar said in another tweet.
Apart from the problem of having 25.93 lakh unmetered connections in the state, UPPCL also has the problem of people who have metered connections but do not pay their bills, mainly those who had been given connections under the Centre’s ambitious Saubhagya scheme. Of the total 208.62 lakh rural consumers, only 17.73% (36.98 lakh) have paid at least once since April 1, 2020.
The rest about 171.64 lakh have not paid even once. Though the situation was slightly better in urban areas, yet only 72.49% (52.23 lakh out of 72.05 lakh) have paid electricity bills since April, while nearly 20 lakh have not paid even once in the current financial year.
The department had, last year, initiated a new scheme to regularise all electrical connections that people are using illegally as ‘katiyas’. Termed ‘Katiya hatao, connection pao’ (Give up illegal connection and get a legal one), the state-wide campaign was to convert ‘katiyas’ into legal or formal connections by making people who use illegal connections self-declare that they indulge in power pilfering by tapping into official power lines. But the scheme, which was launched for two months, from July 1 to August 30, has not worked.