Jailing power thieves: Kashmir Inc terms move draconian
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Jailing power thieves: Kashmir Inc terms move draconian

The decision of PDP-BJP government to file police cases against power thieves has triggered public outcry in Jammu and Kashmir with business community and civil society terming the government’s decision as draconian.

The decision of PDP-BJP government to file police cases against power thieves has triggered public outcry in Jammu and Kashmir with business community and civil society terming the government's decision as draconian.

"Nobody in JK supports power theft, but in order to hide its failures government is making common people of the state a sacrificial lamb," said President, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Sheikh Ashiq.

"Look at the functioning of PDD which deals with distribution of power. The department has failed to bring down T&D losses which are much higher than national average," he said, adding that jailing people is no solution. "It is just a ploy by the government to hide its failures."

"This move will have social implications and encourage corruption," he said, adding that government should desist from introducing such 'draconian laws.'

President CCIK, Zahoor Trumboo termed the government's move as "mini-APSFA."

"These absurd decisions can be taken only by our governments; nowhere in the country are people resorting to power thefts jailed. But our state is an exception as we already have APSFA. Now this law will be mini-AFSPA where people will be jailed on suspicion of power thefts while the PDD officials who are hand in glove with corrupt elements will roam free. It is mockery," he added.

President, Kashmir Economic Alliance, Muhammad Yaseen Khan castigated PDP-BJP government for traumatizing general masses by their anti-people policies. "We are against power thefts, but that does not mean you would put people behind bars. We are living in a state where there are laws like AFSPA, PSA and now this will further aggravate mental agony of Kashmiris."

"Government must prioritize taming T&D losses, and get back power projects from centre government to improve power position in JK rather than adopting policies which agonize people."

Jammu-based business chambers also flayed the government's decision.

President, Chamber of Commerce and Industry Jammu, Rakesh Gupta said that instead of booking people resorting to power thefts, government should pass laws which would recommend strict action against officials who are allowing pilferage for their petty gains.

"There are already penalties and other laws which recommend action against power thieves, but putting people behind bars is harsh," he added.

In a high-level meeting chaired by J&K's Chief Vigilance Commissioner Kuldeep Khoda here yesterday, the Power Development Department was asked to register FIRs in all cases of electricity theft or illegal power connections that come to the fore and monitor the progress of investigation and trial thereof.

The meeting was attended by two members of the State Vigilance Commission and PDD Chief Engineers (MnRE) Kashmir and Jammu divisions and Chief Engineer, P&MM as well.

While deliberating upon "large number of theft cases being detected", the Commission decided to recommend to the Government to "earmark one police station each at Jammu and Srinagar for dealing with the offences under the State Electricity Act."

The decision of government has come as a "rude shock" for people of Jammu and Kashmir, a state which has a huge potential to generate hydroelectricity of more than 20000 MW due to abundance of its water resources, but plundering of its resources by outside state power companies such as NHPC has rendered it a power deficit state.

People of Jammu and Kashmir have no option other than to purchase electricity generated from their resources from outside companies at higher rates.

Adding to it is the government's failure to reduce transmission and distribution losses because of faulty distribution system. As per official figures, Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses in Kashmir stood at a staggering 64 per cent in 2013-14, while for the entire Jammu and Kashmir state it was 54 per cent, much above the national average of 30 per cent.

The move—which many PDD insiders term as "anti-people"—comes at a time when the PDD headed by Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh has decided to charge consumers 300 times more as monthly electricity fee.

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