New Delhi: One of the most memorable photographs in the run up to Assembly elections in five states has been Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav ducking the live power cable hanging on the streets of Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow. These cables are called “katiya”, used for power theft in states such as UP, Bihar and Rajasthan.
The photograph went viral with people mocking the pathetic electricity situation in the poll-bound state. People active on social media took a dig at Rahul’s terrified and Akhilesh’s confident-looking expressions. They joked that the UP chief minister looked poise because he was sure that there would not be current in the cables.
The photograph inadvertently highlighted the issue of power theft in UP and the SP government’s failure in checking the problem in five of its rule.
AKHILESH DEFENDS KATIYA PRACTICE
However, the worse was yet to come. Instead of admitting the brazen theft of power, Akhilesh not just defended the crime but also apparently promoted it.
Succumbing to vote bank politics, Akhilesh gave a nod to power theft. Addressing a rally in communally sensitive Muzaffarnagar on Friday, the UP chief minister claimed that the state government was providing round-the-clock electricity and was also not stopping anybody from stealing electricity. “The government has no objection if you use katiya for illegal power,” Akhilesh Yadav was quoted as saying.
Earlier, Cabinet minister in Akhilesh’s government Azam Khan had said that it was because of the SP’s good governance in the state that nobody was even asking the people regarding the payment of taxes.
UP CM AGAINST POWER THEFTS
Akhilesh’s remarks are in stark contrast to his own stand a couple of years ago. In January 2015, while talking to mediapersons in Deoria, he had expressed concern over power theft by way of katiyas. He had then said that power theft was adversely affecting the state’s development.
He had also claimed that his government had launched a number of initiatives, including campaign, to check power theft by appealing to the people to forsake the practice.
UP’S POOR RECORD IN POWER MANAGEMENT
Akhilesh’s volte face is also worrying because the country’s most populous state has the dubious distinction of registering the highest aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses at 39 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal. Besides, its outstanding power-sector debt stood at over Rs 54,000 crore.
Releasing SP’s election manifesto for UP’s seven-phase Assembly elections commencing on February 11, Akhilesh made tall claims but omitted checking the katiya practice or power theft. He said all non-electrified villages would be electrified and 24-hour power supply would be ensured for domestic consumers in rural and urban areas.
UNFULFILLED CLAIMS IN SP’S ELECTION MANIFESTO
However, the voters may take Akhilesh’s claims with a pinch a salt because the promises made with regard to electricity in SP’s 2012 Assembly elections manifesto have remained unfulfilled.
Then, SP had promised 20 hours a day power supply in rural areas and 22 hours a day in urban areas. However, the actual situation is far from the promises made five years ago.
Now, Akhilesh’s go-ahead to the law-breakers to steal power by way of katiyas should be more disappointing.