New Delhi: A team of forensic experts has said that an “illegal, fraudulent and massive” SMA scam was behind the massive damage inflicted by a group of thieves who broke into India’s biggest power grid and took control of over 1,000 megawatts of the nation’s electricity.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) said that the group stole about 1,800 megawatts (MW) worth of power from the national grid in November 2015.
The team of experts, led by NIA Director General Sanjeev Sharma, said that they were “disappointed” at the “unacceptable and inexcusable” actions of the thieves and their “spiteful and unprofessional behaviour”.
The team, headed by former Solicitor General Sanjay Bhattacharya, examined evidence gathered from the power companies, telecom companies, and private firms and said that many of the thefts were done without the permission of the power regulator or state authorities.
Mr Sharma told The Times that the “criminals used the power grid as their vehicle to commit serious crimes”.
“There are no signs that any power company has done anything to stop the theft or to protect its employees from the consequences of the crime,” he said.
In the wake of the theft, a number of companies have suspended work for at least two weeks, and authorities have imposed a power price freeze for the next two weeks.
“This has created havoc in the lives of thousands of Indians,” said Mr Sharma.
“The perpetrators were brazen and they exploited the trust that the citizens have placed in the power providers.
The fact that so many people had to resort to extreme measures to get power restored shows the magnitude of the damage that has been done,” he added.
India’s power grid is one of the country’s most vital infrastructure, which is vital for a large number of people who live in rural areas and are affected by the monsoon weather.
Power companies in India are required to maintain power supply for more than a quarter of the population and for the majority of the rural population in the country.
The theft of power and other critical infrastructure in India has become one of a number that have hit the country in recent years.
The stolen power was sold to private companies and sold to the government, while the power firms themselves were accused of not doing enough to prevent the theft and the damage to the power system, said Mr Bhattocharya.
The NIA’s investigation team has also started investigating the perpetrators of the previous SMA scams, in 2009, 2010 and 2013.