LAHORE - The incidents of power theft at the tubewells of Wasa in different parts of the city is on the rise making mockery of the rosy picture exhibited by the high-ups of the agency to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif about their so called performance. As the power theft is rampant, electricity bill of the Wasa has swelled piling up heavy burden over its annual budget already going in deficit. Wasa has by now a budget deficit of Rs 1.3 billion and has been paying around Rs 130 million per month to the Lesco for electricity it uses. According to estimates, the agency has to pay an extra monthly amount of Rs 5 million to Lesco due to power pilfering at more than 400 tubewells installed at different places. Severity of situation could be gauged by the fact that Lesco had to disconnect the power supply to one of the disposal and pumping stations due to non-payment. The most ridiculous thing is that the illegal exercise had been going on since long. But no strict action has been taken so far, clearly spelling neglect is writ large in the department. Operators deputed to switch off and on of the tube wells are the accused but they are at large with impunity. Sources revealed that a racket of Lesco officials (SDOs and XENs) and operators were involved in electricity theft at the tubewells. A number of illegal power connections from the tubewells to nearby markets and houses had been detected at different places, sources disclosed. But no case was registered as yet to start legal proceeding against the accused persons. When contacted, Managing Director Wasa Javed Iqbal responded that the agency had come up with a strategy to check the incidents of power theft at the tubewells. He said 100 smart meters had been purchased to detect exact power load supplied to the tubewells. Any load that will be transferred to illegal power connection would be detected forthwith and accused will be caught. Up till now, 37 smart meters had been installed, thus menace of power theft would perish automatically, he maintained. He said Wasa had also constituted a committee to monitor the situation, adding, We have submitted a summary to CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif demanding a grant of Rs 500 million so that department could pay its outstanding amount to the Lesco. As Wasa had been facing a budget deficit of Rs 1.3 billion in 2008-09, therefore it was necessary to demand Rs 130 million per month for paying electricity bill, he added. He said those found guilty of illegal business would have to face departmental action. The department would also recover monetary damages by deducting money from the salaries of the accused persons. Meanwhile, WASA spokesman also told the Nation on Sunday that the agency caught two cases of power thefts in Shadman and Iqra market in Ichhra Bazaar and action had been taken against more than five operators. To investigate further, he said, Wasa had formed a committee comprising two officials of agency XEN Shakil Kashmiri and SDO Abdul Latif along with three dignitaries of the area concerned, claiming that the committee was vigilant and acting up to mark.