The Electricity Employees’ Federation of India (EEFI) has opposed the rampant privatisation moves of the Modi-led BJP government — which in its second term has already ramped up the transfer, initiated under the Congress, of the transfer all national assets to private hands.
The most recent attack is on the power sector, as the Union Ministry of Power is quite literally arm-twisting the state-owned power distribution companies to privatise the supply of electricity through multiple licensees — or lose any financial assistance from the Centre, or loans from the Power Finance Corporation; even as the state discoms would be reduced to literally laying down the wires and made to bear responsibility for the distribution infrastructure.
Power engineers and workers across India have been united to oppose this move — which was the main content of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2014 and 2018, which saw massive resistance by power sector employees. In face of the staunch opposition by workers, the government appears to have bypassed the parliamentary route altogether, as last year the NITI Aayog proposed the same.
And earlier this month, Union Power Minister R K Singh gave an ultimatum to the state discoms, stating that “this (privatisation of supply) can be done without amending the Electricity Act”.
Slamming these anti-national steps of the Modi government, Prasanta N Chowdhury, general secretary of EEFI — the countrywide power workers’ wing of central trade union CITU or the Centre of Indian Trade Unions — said the government “should keep in mind that India and its assets are not ancestral properties of the Ministers of Government of India.”
“Power Minister RK Singh has declared with audacity that GOI will stop all financial support to states where distribution companies will not be privatised,” said Chowdhury in a protest statement issued by EEFI on August 29, 2019.
“Electricity is in the concurrent list of the Constitution. Hence, the sweet will of some ministers will not prevail upon the Constitution,” he said — while reasserting the resolve of the electricity employees to resist the attacks on the sector, which would eventually hurt the public consumers in terms of cost and accessibility.
“Electricity employees of our country are dedicated to the service of the people, and they will stand by the people with fullest and unified strength.”
Chowdhury also pointed to other sectors and areas that the BJP is taking steps to privatise such as coal mines and defence production.
“Privatisation of defence production units was kept on hold upon show of strength through strike action by all defence production unions,” he said.
“Coal Minister Piyush Goyal has gone ahead to declare Privatisation of coal mines by transferring even to Foreign Capitalists.”
The EEFI statement “noted with concern that ministers of Government of India, including Prime Minister, have declared virtual war against the people of India, specifically workers, peasants and economically backward section after re-election of Narendra Modi as prime minister for second term.”
“Broad steps to transfer all national assets to private hands including all major public sector enterprises are opposed by conscious people of India,” said EEFI, reminding the ruling government that the public sector workers will fight till the privatisation is stemmed and reversed.
Also read: ‘Privatise or Lose Funding’: Power Engineers Oppose Ministry’s Arm-Twisting Ultimatum