Around 300,000 government employees in Jammu and Kashmir will have to produce no-objection certificates from the electricity department before they can claim salaries for the month of March 2003.
"No electricity means failure of the government in performing its duties, but non-payment of electricity dues by consumers is not only a failure of civic responsibilities, but also a criminal act," said state Finance Minister Muzaffar Hussain Beigh.
The J&K government is also launching a campaign to identify and disconnect thousands of unauthorised electric connections across the state.
Many allege that these connections cannot exist without the tacit approval of the electricity department staffers, who reportedly collect 'fees at lower rates from illegal consumers and pocket them'.
There is a big question mark on whether the state government can continue distributing 'electricity largesse'. It will have to incur much more than a monthly Rs55 crore to keep its 'healing touch' policy alive by supplying electricity to consumers.
"The cumulative power bill of the state stands at a whopping Rs2200 crore, out of which only a meagre Rs100 crore has been realised as electricity tariff from consumers during the previous fiscal year," said Beigh.
A power department spokesperson warned people against misuse of electricity. "Punishment will be awarded to illegal consumers under the Electricity Act," he said.
People have been given a week's time to legalise their connections. "After the expiry of the deadline, cases will be registered in respective police stations against people indulging in power theft," the spokesperson said.
The realisation that the 'healing touch' policy may bring to disaster an already crippled economy is slowly dawning on the new government as it prepares to face bigger economic challenges.