The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Power racket thrives in Burdwan

Burdwan, Jan. 15: A gang of musclemen is supplying stolen power to cultivators at cheap rates in Purbasthali to run their pumps and even husking mills.

Poor farmers of the area alleged that this “power mafia” is running the roaring “business” in connivance with a section of the state electricity board staff and influential local farmers. “These rich farmers not only use the power to run their submersible pumps, but also sell the water to others and make a profit out of this illegal activity,” said Guniram Mondol, a villager.

Villagers have complained to the police and the SEB mainly about the gang’s operation in villages like Hamidpur, Dharampur, Pathangram and adjacent areas of Purbasthali’s block II. The “charges” range from Rs 150 to 200 per month.

The SEB is planning a crackdown soon. “We have initiated a probe and identified some of the persons behind the racket,” said zonal manager D.K. Roy.

“We will not spare even our own staff if we find them guilty of abetting the crime,” he added. Punitive action would be taken after a departmental inquiry against the errant staff.

Villagers pointed out that the stolen power is also being supplied to several husking mills. SEB sources said supply to these mills had been terminated after they defaulted on payment.

So flourishing is the racket, the gang has begun installing illegal transformers to set up a “transmission grid” by tapping power from the high-tension lines.

“The theft is happening under the nose of the panchayat samiti chairman’s secretary, but he is too scared to protest, especially against the kingpin, Murat Ali, a very influential man in the area,” another villager alleged.

The Burdwan zilla parishad has taken strong exception to the racket. “We have asked the police and the SEB to embark on a joint operation to nab these criminals,” said chairman Ramkrishna Banerjee. Power minister Mrinal Banerjee is a local MLA.

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