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Touts insulate Mescom from graft

Mohit M. Rao
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Officials say rampant use of agents for new connections likely the reason for clean records

Though the number of complaints of power theft and other irregularities are on the rise, the Mescom Vigilance and Enforcement Department says it has not received even a single complaint of corruption against officials of the government company.

In the past three years, official records show that not one case of corruption has been registered against Mescom officials. Officials say that this points to the rampant use of agents and lack of awareness of the vigilance department, rather than lack of corruption in the electricity supply company.

“Not many people personally come to Mescom offices for new connections. Instead, they use the services of electrical contractors or such agents to do this. And agents who have close connections with officials themselves are unlikely to lodge complaints of harassment or bribes,” said officials.

With no complaints, the department says it could not take action against officials. The closest it came to taking action against a “corrupt” official was in the case of a lineman in Bantwal who was caught stealing power on July 24.

“People are more likely to go to Lokayukta if some engineer demands money, rather than come to us. Not many know about the vigilance department,” said Vinay A.. Gaonkar, Deputy Superintendent of Police.

The Vigilance Department, however, has its hands full with the rising violations in both urban and rural areas. Penalties collected cross Rs. 1.5 crore each year, which shows a rising trend. Already, Rs. 1.17 crore has been collected this year, and this excludes the festival season during which power theft for stage programmes and community programmes drastically increases.

Largely, agrarian districts of Shimoga and Chikmagalur – which also come under Mescom – have a share of more than 50 per cent of the penalties, which is disproportionate to their population.

“In rural places, illegal pump-sets, thefts of power from the house to run pumps, or other sets,” said Assistant Executive Engineer Seema M.R., who is attached to the vigilance department.

In Dakshina Kannada, which forms the singular largest chunk of the penalties, diversion of electricity meant for residential purposes to commercial complexes, extracting electricity by bypassing meters, illegal extension of electricity supply to other houses/additional rooms of the house were among the most common violations, said officials.

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