| An assistance booth on the Lake Gardens flyover lit with power drawn from a lamp post. (Below): How the power is drawn. Pictures by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Cops have turned robbers. Many of the 64 Calcutta Police streetcorner kiosks are lit by power hooked from streetlights.
For the past few months, police have been helping CESC track down and nail power thieves. The penalty ' a minimum of three years' imprisonment and fines, depending on the scale of the theft.
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On Wednesday, officers of the private power utility revealed that a majority of the police assistance booths set up at different road intersections since May are electrified without proper permission.
'As far as our records go, electricity connection has not yet been formally given to many of the kiosks,' said D.N. Majumdar, adviser, customer relations, CESC.
'Though the agency responsible for setting them up on behalf of the force has deposited the fee required for commercial electric meters, they should have waited till they had the formal permission in hand,' he added.
A survey by Metro revealed that in many places, the booths are drawing power from nearby Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) lamp posts.
CMC records state that only a few kiosks are supposed to draw power from the posts.
'We have provided power to 14 kiosks that were inaugurated by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. We have no clue about the rest. That is for the CESC and the agency that set up the kiosks to look into,' said Sajal Bhowmik, municipal secretary.
Sumon Industries, the Burrabazar-based agency that erected the kiosks, said the assistance booths have been electrified 'legally' after obtaining meters.
But Shyamoli Mishra, spokesperson for Sumon, declined to elaborate on whether she was referring to the batch of 14 booths the CMC had allowed to be electrified.
'I am not very sure, I have to go through the relevant papers,' Mishra said on Wednesday night. 'If the meters have not been installed in all the kiosks, they will arrive soon.'
Kuldiep Singh, joint commissioner of police, administration, said he was unaware of power-tapping by the assistance booths. 'Arranging electricity is the job of the private agency that was given the contract of setting up the kiosks,' said Singh, who is responsible for the booths.
'Forget the legality of the connection. One has to ensure electricity to make sure that officers can carry out their duties,' said a senior member of the force.