The people who have been living at Katcha Bandar on the banks of the River Indus, owe nearly Rs11 million in electricity bills, according to Sukkur Electric Power Company (Sepco) executive engineer for operations, Ahmed Ali Shaikh.
According to a survey by their revenue department, there were 1,500 houses in Katcha Bunder, and there were hundreds of shops, five mosques and four high-rise commercial and residential plazas in the area. Residents were provided electricity connections from the new Bunder feeder at the Site grid station, but according to Sepco sources, only 432 electric meters were removed from the area during the demolition, which means that the remaining 1,000 houses were stealing electricity through ‘kundas’ or informal connections. This includes domestic and commercial connections.
After compensation cheques were handed out to residents of Katcha Bunder, the district administration began demolishing shops, godowns and houses inside the Bunder Wall area. The Bunder Wall protects Sukkur from any flooding but people had started living along the unsafe part of the riverbank. After the 2010 floods, they were told to leave by the government so that their lives are not at risk if the water levels ever rise again.
While addressing a press conference at his residence 15 days ago, Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Islamuddin Shaikh announced that the shops and godowns will be demolished without compensating the owners as they were illegal. The senator said the mosques will not be touched but the high-rise commercial and residential plazas inside the Bunder Wall area will be taken down.
Residents, including Mehram, Ghulamo and Nazir, told The Express Tribune that some residents used to provide neighbours electricity through their meters for Rs300 per month.
“Sepco officials used to provide them [residents] with direct connection for Rs1,000 per month and the residents earned extra money by providing electricity to their neighbours for Rs200 per month,” claimed a resident.
A lineman, who was working in the area, said that he had provided 25 direct connections for Rs25,000 per month. “Every such connection was further distributed among at least three to four more houses,” he explained.
Ahmed Ali Shaikh said that he met MNA Nauman Islam Shaikh on Sunday and asked him to help Sepco recover the arrears. Nauman Islam Shaikh has promised to take the matter with the authorities. “When the residents have been compensated for their houses, they must clear utility dues,” said the MNA.
Sepco has suffered the largest loss, while Sui Southern Gas Company and Pakistan Telecommunications Limited have lost negligible amounts. SSGC zonal manager Aziz Abro told The Express Tribune that the outstanding bills do not amount to more than Rs300,000 since there were not many gas connections in the locality.
The PTCL Sukkur divisional engineer, Abdul Hakeem Ghunio, said that PTCL did not provide many telephone connections because it was a katcha area. Nearly 300 consumers have outstanding bills since telephone connections are usually disconnected if the bill is not paid before the due date, said Ghunio.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2011.