The Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) has proposed to form 80 special squads comprising ex-servicemen to tackle the problem of energy theft.

The utility has approached the State government for according authorisation to the squads to inspect the premises of service connections as per the Electricity Act. Once the approval is obtained, the TANGEDCO will take steps for hiring personnel to establish the squads.

The move is part of the fulfilment of the poll assurances given by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in the election manifesto.

At present, there are 18 enforcement squads, each headed by an Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE), are functioning throughout the State. The squads fall under the control of four Executive Engineers (EE) stationed at Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Tiruchi, who are, in turn, supervised by the Superintending Engineer (SE) [Enforcement] with the overall control of Inspector-General of Police or Additional Director General of Police (Vigilance).

Besides, the Chief Electrical Inspector has formed inter-disciplinary teams to detect the misuse of energy. Over the years, the number of energy theft cases detected had gone up.

In 1999-2000, 470 cases of energy theft were detected.

Ten years later (2009-2010), the number rose to 6,230. The incidence of theft showed a rise from 0.31 per cent of the connections inspected to 4.16 per cent.

The collection made by the authorities towards the levy of penalty was about Rs. 8 crore in 1999-2000, whereas it shot up to around Rs. 29 crore.

As per the present proposal of the TANGEDCO, each squad will consist of five ex-servicemen. There will be two such squads per distribution circle.

The State has 40 electricity distribution circles. On an experimental basis, the squads will function for four months. Their continuance will be decided on the basis of their performance.

The proposal has provided for coordination between special squads and the existing vigilance machinery of the TANGEDCO.

The squads will report to the territorial EE or AEE (Enforcement). The SE will monitor their work all over the State.

The order issued by the TANGEDCO on the proposal states that the total expenditure on 80 squads is about Rs. 88 lakh a month and this includes hiring charges and the cost for transport and communication facilities.

Though the revenue to be realised by the authorities is not quantifiable, a tentative estimate of Rs.1 crore a month has been worked out.