Malda, Oct. 22: The West Bengal State Electricity Board (WBSEB) was deprived of almost Rs 18 lakh by unscrupulous Kali Puja organisers yesterday.
Not only that, but if things remain as they are with the pandals being lighted up for three consecutive days, the WBSEB fears that the loss would mount to more than a crore. The officials also apprehend a similar revenue loss because of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.
According to WBSEB sources, not a single application for extra power for decorative lighting during Id has been received this time. Last year, a survey revealed that during the Muslim festival, an extra 4 MW was required in the district.
An engineer connected with the WBSEB’s revenue department said there was rampant hooking during the Durga Pujas too. “The loss the board suffered then was also close to a crore,” he added. He regretted that vigilance teams did not conduct raids during the festive season.
According to the official, widespread power theft was responsible for frequent cuts in supply during the festival days. Only 204 organisers had deposited Rs 1.8 lakh for the supply of 555 KW of power during Kali Puja. But WBSEB engineers said more than 5 MW (1 MW= 1,000 KW) of extra power was drawn from the grid last night.
“More than a thousand Kali pujas were organised in the district whereas we received applications from only 204 committees,” the official said. Chanchol was the only pocket where theft was minimal. Unlike last year, no steps were taken this time to cut down on power theft.
Officials said though the target for 2006-07 was Rs 6 crore, less than 60 per cent has been collected. “We cannot raise the revenue collected unless power theft is stopped,” the engineer said.
While senior officials of the board refused to comment, Dilip Hore, the district secretary of the WBSEB’s workmen’s union — a Citu-controlled body — alleged that the management had ignored several warnings on power theft.