VELLORE: A common sight in Vellore city is streetlights remaining on till late into the morning. This is almost a regular scenes in places such as Mullipalayam area up to Konavattam, Sathuvachari, Arcot Road, Poonthottam Velapadi, Kosapet, some areas in Katpadi, streets between Thottapalayam and Vellore new bus stand and the pathway around the Vellore Fort.
The public, which is already agitated over the daily 8-hour power cut, is concerned about the wasteful consumption of power by street lights during the day.
Kousalya, a homemaker of Thiru V Ka Nagar near Thottapalayam in Vellore said, “This really upsets us as we experience power cuts for nearly 6 to 8 hours. We can’t tolerate electricity being wasted like this.”
Her neighbour, Bhuvaneshwari, adds, “Streetlights were seen glowing at Thiru V Ka Nagar till 10 am on Sunday. These incidents lead us to believe that there is no shortage of power in the State.” And, the reason for the lights remaining on through the morning, according to officials, is shortage of staff.
“It is the responsibility of the zonal officers to monitor these things. The Corporation owes the Electricity Board around `8 crore, of which `4.88 crore is the billing for streetlights. The bill generated through the streetlights in Vellore is around `75,000 per month. Paying attention to these small aspects could help bring down the electricity bill,” Corporation Engineer Devakumar said. He also claimed that the operation of streetlights is the irresponsibility of contractors. He also pointed out that the lights are sometimes switched on in daytime for maintenance.
Another Corporation official said, “Of the 17,626 streetlights in the Corporation limits, 5,600 lights in the old Corporation areas have been let out on contract. The remaining, located in newly added areas, are directly maintained by the electricity department of the Corporation. This problem could be caused because of a shortage of personnel in the Corporation.
Not more than 20 staff - four wiremen and electricians of zonal offices, who are also being roped in - have to take care of 12,000 lights. Plans are on to temporarily let these lights too on contract. The process has been initiated and all the lights in the Vellore Corporation would be in the hands of private contractors by mid June.
“The Corporation hopes the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model would permanently solve such problems. Steps are being taken by the government to introduce PPP model to all Corporations in the State,” the official added.
“If the model is implemented, all streetlights could be monitored and controlled from one place. Alerts regarding streetlights could also be received through GSM (Global System Mobile),” the official added.
Kodhandapani, a petty shopkeeper in Sathuvachari complained that alerts from the public are not heeded. “When we call or directly approach the nearby EB office, they either ask us to make complaints at the Collector’s office, or say that they have switched it on for testing.”
The contractor of the Old Corporation area lights, Babu, revealed that about 100 points are connected to timers which automatically control the lights.
The other 50 points are manually controlled.
“Four persons are employed to switch on and off the points. These boys are usually college students,” he said. “Sometimes they are switched on for testing. But, we get complaints through the councillors and soon fix these issues,” he added.