New Delhi: As the Centre looks set to bring in an amendment to the Electricity Act of 2003, power employees began a four-day ‘Satyagrah’ here at Jantar Mantar from Tuesday. Opposing the revision in the law that seeks to de-license the power distribution business, the employees threatened a one-day strike on the day the amendment Bill is tabled in Parliament.
The National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees & Engineers (NCCOEEE), an umbrella body of the electricity staff federations, has already given a call to boycott work for one day on August 10.
The Narendra Modi - led Central government has listed the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to be introduced in Parliament during the ongoing Monsoon session. What electricity employees fear about the contentious Bill, above all, is the move toward privatisation of power distribution across the country -- which is already underway in a few states and Union Territories.
On Tuesday, with power sector employees from the Northern region partaking in the first day of ‘Satyagrah’ at Jantar Mantar, this fear was reiterated. Prasanta N Chowdhary, convenor, NCCOEEE, said many provisions in the proposed Bill were “anti-people” and “anti-employee” and if implemented could have “far reaching consequences” for the sector as well as consumers.
“Our body (NCCOEEE) has already given a call for nationwide strike on August 10. But that will be preponed and will be staged on the day this government introduces the Bill in Parliament,” Chowdhary told Newsclick.
He said NCCOEEE was demanding that the government must not “rush through” with the passage of the controversial amendment to the electricity law and should rather refer it to the parliamentary standing committee on energy, where all stakeholders are given a chance to share their views.
Shailendra Dubey, chairman, All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) said the move to de-licence power distribution will in no way ensure “efficient” and “cost-effective” electricity supply to citizens. “Unless the reform is designed scrupulously, taking into account the ground realities, the well-intended objective of ‘choice to consumers’ may not be fulfilled.”
The amendment Bill to the electricity law was listed to be introduced in Parliament last year as well, but without any success, as it attracted the ire of not just trade unions but also of protesting farmers’ organisations. Additionally, the provisions of the Bill were also “vehemently” opposed by 12 states and UTs then, according to NCCOEEE.
On Tuesday, not far from where the electricity employees were staging the ‘Satyagrah’, protesting farmers from Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders held their ‘Kisan Sansad.’
In a resolution passed on the Electricity Amendment Bill, 2021, the farmers on Wednesday observed that the implementation of the Bill would “impact” the tariffs on all activities in rural areas, as they would get “exposed” to commercial charges, further adding that the amendment is mainly for “increasing” and “securing” the profits of private companies.
Demanding its withdrawal, the resolution said: “Electricity being a basic resource for rural production and processing including by farmers, cottage industries, for health, education and other civic services, the policy should be to provide free, high quality, regular supply of electricity, to enable rural people and farmers to benefit from the same.”