Puri: The process of restoration of power in parts of the Puri district battered by cyclonic storm Fani seemed to be mired in shady deals as ground realities expose the tall claims of the state government with the employees of electricity department expressing reluctance to restore power at the earliest.
A spot visit by this correspondent in areas close to Balisahi near Satpada in Puri revealed that several villages are still in darkness thanks to the lethargy of officials as power has not been restored so far. Left in lurch for months, many enterprising villagers have started collecting donations to get power restored to their homes at the earliest.
“We have not received electricity in our locality since Fani lashed our region. We were suffering in silence in the countryside while urban areas got priority. The youths of our village decided to raise donations and get the restoration works done at the earliest. We are arranging the electricity poles and other equipment on our own,” said a villager near Balisahi requesting anonymity.
A visit to the area showed that the field workers of the energy department were relaxing at a corner while the villagers were actually engaged in uploading and downloading the lamp posts. The villagers are forced to take part in the electricity restoration work to get their works done though it is the responsibility of the department to engage people to complete their tasks.
Reports of bribes are evident in the process. Several villagers said they have been compelled to bribe the field staff to provide impetus to electricity restoration works. The situation was similar in Bhubaneswar where energy department officials directly demanded `200 per household to get power restoration done.
Rakesh Kumar, a resident of Jharpara (Bhubaneswar), claimed that energy department officials took advantage of their helplessness and fleeced money to recharge power lines to several streets.
“In times of crisis, we spent sleepless nights without electricity for almost 15 days. Many of us reached the electricity office to pressurize the field staff for early restoration but we were shouted at. When the electricity department personnel actually came to the field they demanded `200 from each household. We had to pay to get the electricity connections done faster,” he said.
Similar charges of graft were also reported in the affected districts where power consumers had to shell out money to get power restored. When the matter was raised before the officials, Sanjay Singh, Information and Public Relations (I&PR) Secretary told reporters that the matter would be looked into by the authorities concerned at the appropriate time.