The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Take-away towers towed away

Ranchi, June 14: One hundred ' no less ' electrical transmission towers have been “stolen” in Jharkhand, according to the First Information Reports (FIR) lodged by the state electricity board.

Each of these towers was 25 metres high and comprised 25 sections, each weighing 40 kg and costing Rs 7.5 lakh.

It would have taken 20 men at least two days to dismantle one tower before being taken away in trucks, say experts. What’s even more shocking, the theft continued to take place over a large area for an entire year before the board apparently woke up.

The unusual “theft” has been reported from the Patratu-Bodh Gaya section and the Jharkhand State Electricity Board (JSEB) has gone through the motions of lodging FIRs and blaming the Bihar electricity board for the audacious crime.

All the transmission towers were located in Jharkhand but JSEB has taken the plea that since they were meant to supply electricity to Bihar, it was logically the responsibility of the board of that state to “maintain” the towers.

Predictably, the Bihar board has pointed out the absurdity of the proposition and shrugged off its responsibility. The towers were put up by the JSEB at its own cost and were all located in Jharkhand.

The theft was carried out systematically. First, two of the towers disappeared in July last year.

Emboldened by the complete lack of concern by the JSEB and the police, the “thieves” took away eight more towers by October, when the board was gifted a new chairman, H.B. Lal, by the government.

Since then, in about nine months, 90 towers have been dismantled and “stolen”.

JSEB officials argue that the theft was not immediately discovered because the towers were the third back-up row, used only when the other two transmission lines of 220 KV stop functioning. Therefore, there was no immediate impact of the theft on the transmission, they explain.

The explanation, however, raises more questions than answers. Nobody has been made accountable for the loss of around Rs 8 crore to the board and no responsibility fixed. Nor is there an explanation on the need to have a third back-up when there are already two, which are available.

It is revealing that the board has no plans to install new transmission towers in the section. Why were they installed in the first place'

The officials also explain that maintenance of the towers was difficult because they are all located in the rebel-ravaged areas, where even policemen do not dare get in. How were they installed then in the first place'

The towers were stolen by organised gangs which must have sold the steel as scrap. These towers must have taken time and scores of people, besides trucks, to move them, also that they could have been purchased by select dealers.

Each galvanised steel section, say experts, was rich in carbon and would fetch a high price in the market. While a nexus between the board officials, the police and the underworld appears more than likely, the case is as good as “closed”.

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