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Murli Deora, senior leader from Congress, passes away in Mumbai

Murli Deora was Mayor of Mumbai from 1977 to 1978 and elected to Lok Sabha four times from Mumbai South, a seat later held by his son, Milind


Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Murli Deora passed away at Mumbai Monday morning after prolonged illness. He was 77 and is survived by his wife and two sons, including former MP Milind Deora.


Murlibhai, as he was known as, died at around 3.25am. He had been unwell and admitted to hospital. He was brought home two days ago, family sources said.


Deora’s mortal remains would be kept at the Mumbai Congress office, where party workers would pay their last respects from 12 noon to 2pm. His last rites would be performed at Chandanwadi Crematorium later in the day, the family sources said.


Deora, who held several important portfolios during his decades-long career, first contested the civic elections in Mumbai in 1975.


An economics graduate, Deora was Mayor of Mumbai from 1977 to 1978 and elected to Lok Sabha four times from Mumbai South, a seat later held by his son, Milind, who is also a former MP and ex-Union Minister.


Deora was serving his third term as a Rajya Sabha MP.


The Congress veteran held the portfolio of Petroleum and Natural Gas during the UPA-1 regime. He had also served as the president of Mumbai Congress for 22 years.


He joined the Union Cabinet in 2006, shortly before he turned 70 and led oil diplomacy in Myanmar, Algeria and Egypt, and held talks with ministers from Sudan, Chad, Ethopia and Comoros.


Deora also hosted the first India-Africa Hydrocarbon Conference and Exhibition in November 2007. In July 2011, Deora became the Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology.


Power theft: Why we need to introduce tamper-proof electricity connections

Efforts are being made to tackle power theft which is rampant. There is a need for the introduction of stricter and heavier punishments for corrupt officials who turn a blind eye to such activities


The Power Ministry is now on a war path to increase the generation of power. Ambitious plans are afoot to ensure greater coal production and to make it possible for speedy movement of coal from pitheads to centres of production.


At the same time, efforts are being made to tackle power theft which is rampant. In some states this is said to be as much as 40%.


The government plans to roll out meters on distribution transformers, feeders and consumers in urban areas and the Cabinet has approved the upgrading of old distribution networks, estimated to cost as much as Rs25,300 crore to tackle the rampant theft. This will take several years to complete.


The illegal users, who steal power, with impunity, can do so only with the connivance of crooked electricians and some officials in the electricity distribution companies. These people consider "free power" as their birth right and privilege due to poor policing. This is a big problem mainly due to corrupt officials who turn a blind eye to such activities.


Drawing of power from live overhead lines is a "child's game" and the dangling, loose wires on the roadside are a sore sight. There is no way a law abiding citizen knows if anyone in his own locality is actually drawing "free" power by plugging into the electricity connection junction boxes. This is because these are NOT tamper proof!


Take the case of Karnataka Slum Clearance Board (KSCB). They had completed 1,000 dwelling units in April 2013 and had allowed 900 allottees to "move" in. Almost from day one, these "residents" had been "enjoying" electricity supply! Everyone knows how long it takes to get the connection done and meter installed before the "power" is activated!


The Vigilance Squad officials raided, presumably on a tip off, and found that the residents had not only moved in much earlier to occupy the premises but were also drawing power from a live wire for the previous one and a half years, when the "work" was in "progress"!


Bescom, Bangalore Electricity Company has estimated the theft to be 3,000 kW per month causing a loss of Rs50 lakh, and the total loss is said to be over Rs5 crore during this period!


Arifulla Khan, Assistant Executive Engineer, Bescom, who unearthed the theft has estimated that between 2,600 kW and 3,000 kW of power has been illegally drawn every month and all these residents who were "enjoying" power had no "meters" installed and the area was at a stage of "sanction" and "execution of transformers", when this matter was uncovered by him.


Further investigations have revealed that the power was being drawn from a live power line that supplied electricity to another layout in JP Nagar. The thieves had used loose wires and cables to carry out this illegal operation. Press reports indicate that the KSCB officials are culpable and the assistant executive engineer, executive engineer and others responsible for the theft". Full investigations are in process.


Section 135 of the Electricity Act, covering illegal tapping, theft and usage of electricity has detailed rules relating to the action that can be taken against such miscreants. From a meagre fine, imprisonment for repeat offender goes to a maximum of 5 years. If this is not a deterrent, it would be good idea to review the rules.


If the Prime Minister is serious to give uninterrupted power supply to the whole country he must ensure that this illegal tapping must be stopped. Hooking on to a live wire and drawing of power through easily openable junction/connection boxes should be prevented by installing tamper-proof meters and introduction of advanced software that can alert sudden increase in power consumption in registered areas where meters have been installed. All the "poojas" and "pandals" where religious function and even marriage functions take place, power is found to be drawn from "live" power lines in the area.


Vigilance Squads must be more vigilant in stopping this illegal practice.


(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)


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