Nashik: In order to curb power thefts during the ongoing ten-day-long Ganesh festival the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) has already warned the city-based Ganesh Mandals to procure legal temporary power connection from the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL). Though the MSEDCL has made power connections available at subsidized rates, in spite of that a total of 418 mandals have still not procured authorized power connections from MSEDCL. According to the MSEDCL sources, only as many as 215 Ganesh mandals within the civic limits have taken legal power connection from the power company so far while others continue to steal power from either the NMC’S street lights or the distribution points of MSEDCL.
The fact came to light after the NMC as well as the MSEDCL released the numbers of the Ganesh mandals who have been granted permission and have taken authorized power connections from the power company. According to the NMC sources, a head of the Ganesh festival the NMC received around 700 applications through online and at the single window system at all divisional offices and at the NMC headquarter. Out of the total number of applications received the NMC has granted permissions to 633 Ganesh mandals within the civic limits to set up their pandals. But using unregistered electric connections has become a rampant practice amongst Ganesh mandals in the city over the years. Put together, all the Gannesh mandals in the city use about 14 megawatt per day, to power the decorative lights and the music at the pandals. While there are no official statistics, it is estimated that at least 30 per cent of the mandals have illegal power connections.
To curb the practice and catch the offenders, the Bombay High Court had, on August 11, asked the district administration to coordinate with Nashik police commissionerate, NMC and MSEDCL in its drive. This year, MSEDCL has provided connections to 215 mandals in the city. Despite the risk of getting caught, however, mandals continue to flout regulations because the conviction rate for electricity theft is very low. For a conviction to come through, officials need to prove that the electricity theft took place with ‘malicious intent’, or the intention of making some commercial gain from it. Sources said, “There are a high number of acquittals, as under the Maharashtra Electricity Regulation Commission (MERC) Act we have to prove that an illegal connection was obtained with a malicious intent. Most of the times when MSEDCL officials go to a mandal with an illegal connection, the mandal members pay the fine, and therefore no chargesheet is filed. Also, it is difficult to keep track of all the mandals in the city.”