Consumers are seemingly the sitting ducks for the Central Power Distribution Company Limited (CPDCL) which does not flinch from slapping exorbitant tariff hikes year on year on them, even while being extremely magnanimous towards free loaders sponging off of its property in public places.

The issue of electrical poles being used for cable lines, more than they are used for stringing power conductors, stands unresolved for the last 12 years, with officials of successive regimes looking eternally away. Not much change can be noticed even after the company was served a legal notice, and asked by the AP Electricity Regulatory Commission to submit information about the steps being taken.

The issue first cropped up early in the millennium, with an order issued in 2001 for charging the operators at the monthly rate of Rs.20 per pole in the twin cities, Rs.15 per pole in municipalities, and Rs.10 per pole in other places. This is apart from the one-time fixed charges of Rs.100, Rs.50 and Rs.30 payable per pole in these respective regions.

However, the orders were not implemented for reasons best known to the officials, and later kept in abeyance. More recently in 2012, orders were issued afresh for removal of cable lines wherever possible, and penalty to be charged where such removal was not immediately possible.

Penalties

The penalties payable were fixed as Rs.30 per pole per month in the twin cities, and Rs.20 per pole per month in other municipalities and towns, and Rs.15 per pole in other places. However, no implementation could be seen on ground, except when it became absolutely necessary-- say, to allow the Ganesh procession.

There have been a number of incidents where consumers reported loss of valuable electronic goods due to cable wires accidentally coming into contact with high tension power lines. In such cases, the company would conveniently escape by blaming the cable operators.

However, a consumer had recently served a legal notice to the company seeking directions for removal of cable lines, after he received electric shocks on a rainy day. According to the information provided in the notice, over two lakh electric poles are currently being used for hanging cable lines, and the penalties calculated for the duration of 18 months since the order amounted to over Rs.11.5 crore.

Subsequently, an internal memo was circulated in October end from the office the Chief General Manager (Operations and Maintenance) to all superintendent engineers (SEs) and divisional engineers (DEs) directing them to serve penalty notices to the cable operators and internet service providers using electrical poles for extending their services, within 15 days. One-and-a-half months after the memo, the situation still remains the same.

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