Anti-theft cable installation hits snags

Karachi: The plan to replace open power supply cables with anti-theft cables in the city has hit snags as an ambitious drive to regulate electricity supply system in Karachi slums by making power theft impossible through insulated cables seems put on the back burner as the privately owned power supply utility of Karachi, KE, went on back foot after about 2000 people died in the city this summer due to heat wave coupled with electricity load shedding.

There are hundreds of thousands houses, shops, workshops, offices, street vendors, petrol pumps and factories that steal electricity through Kundas or hook connections. These power thieves could be easily frustrated if the open wires are replaced with proper insulated anti-theft cables. The KE this year had initiated a massive plan to replace all old wires with these modern cables, but due to the resistance of power thieves and some internal issues this plan seems to shelved. The result is that genuine bill paying power consumers have to pay for the stolen units in their locality which is not their fault, but even so they are being punished for inability of the KE to stop power theft.

Karachi electricity consumers do not only brave over-billing and pay for the stolen units of electricity, but the cost of giving golden handshake to the surplus KESC employees was also recovered from them, say inner sources.

Due to disregard to consumer rights in Pakistan consumers in some cases have to pay for official duties and obligations of their service providers. It is common here that in many cases the consumers have also to pay bank charges at the time of paying their bills. However, these bank charges are is in fact ‘bill collection charges’ and to pay it is a legal duty and obligation of the service providers. Consumers do not appoint their collection agents in banks so that they can pay their charges. The banks are hired by the service providers to collect their bills and hence paying these collection charges of banks comes in the preview of these service providers

The consumers have just to visit the banks and other collections centres and pay their bill, but they are not obliged legally to also foot the bill collection charges, as it is the matter pertaining to the collection department of the service providers. One cannot compel its customers not only to pay for the services they utilized but also pay some extra money to the collection staff or agency for carrying out their collection duty. This is against the basic spirit of justice as well as genuine accounting and audit procedures. However, this matter is yet to be settled amicably.

The complaints of the KE about power theft are genuine and should be resolved on priority. If the power theft is stopped it would not only give a relief to consumer from overbilling and extra burden for paying the stolen units in their areas and it would also improve revenue generation capacity of the KE, which is their due right. However, again it is the responsibility of the KE to replace the old open wires with insulated anti-theft cables, resolve the bank charges, overbilling and load shedding issues in a professional manner.



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