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Politicians plead for pilferers

Behrampore, April 9: Elected representatives of Khargram in Murshidabad have intervened against a state electricity board drive to stop power pilferage and requested the board to reinstate an illegal connection.

Local CPM legislator Biswanath Mondal and Khargram panchayat samity sabhapati Prasanta Chatterjee rushed to the rescue of Nuru Sheikh, a farmer caught stealing electricity at Sadole village, saying they were acting on “humanitarian” grounds.

All hell broke loose when state electricity board officials, led by a superintending engineer, raided the village last week and snapped Sheikh’s illegal connection. Angry villagers first disrupted the operation by surrounding the officials and preventing them from touring the area and then ransacked the electricity board’s office in Gokarna.

Following the mayhem, the duo signed a “declaration”, requesting that a transformer seized from Sheikh be re-installed and water supply restored to his fields.

“It was purely on humanitarian grounds that I and the sabhapati gave it in writing that the farmer will use the tapped electricity for one more month and after harvest he will apply for a regular connection. If we had not intervened, paddy sown on one hundred bighas would have been spoilt,” Mondal said, adding that Sheikh would surely have committed suicide if he had lost his crop.

The electricity board has thrown up its hands. “What can I say. Even after senior officials came from Calcutta to see to it that power was not being stolen, the operation was stalled,” said the board’s divisional engineer Sisir Chowdhury.

“This is not an isolated incident. On March 27, our officials had gone to disconnect power from the panchayat’s cluster irrigation project at Noapara village in the Kandi police station area as it owed over Rs 1 lakh in dues. The villagers ransacked our office and severely beat up one of our staff, Tushar Rajak. We have lodged an FIR with the Gokarna police station,” he added.

Electricity board officials in the district said villagers in Khargram and Kandi had installed illegal transformers to draw power to irrigate their fields. In Hijole, under the Kandi police station, there were at least 59 such transformers and Sadole had at least 20.

Sources said the board’s staff painstakingly collect reports of instances of power theft and forward it to superiors. “When the board wants to take action, local politicians interfere to stall the disconnection,” they added.

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