Power Sector Employees, Engineers Across States Protest Against Electricity Bill
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New Delhi: The contentious Electricity Amendment Bill (2022) that enables the entry of private companies into the power discom landscape was on Monday introduced in the Lok Sabha amid stiff opposition by Congress, Left parties, TMC and DMK and was referred to the parliamentary standing committee on energy for more comprehensive consultations.
Even while friction on the bill between the ruling NDA and opposition parties was playing out, one million out of a total workforce of 2.7 million joined a “nationwide struggle of Cease Work Action” called by the National Co-ordination Committee of Electricity Employees & Engineers (NCCOEEE), a presser released on Monday noted.
“Altogether, one million electricity employees & engineers took part in the demonstration at 9608 places all over the Country from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu and Tripura to Kerala,” NCCOEEE stated.
Earlier, on August 2, the Coordination Committee had organised a National Convention in the Constitution Club. A resolution adopted in the Convention had alleged that the Government of India had moved the bill with a “clear intention of curbing the rights of electricity for the poor and rural people including farmers and small entrepreneurs.”
A large number of power sector employees and engineers across the country stopped work and held demonstrations on Monday in protest against the Electricity Amendment Bill 2022, said All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF).
AIPEF is protesting against the Bill saying that it will end all subsidies to power consumers, which would affect commoners especially farmers and the downtrodden.
Last week, AIPEF had also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention, and demanded the bill to be sent to the standing committee.
"On the call of the National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers, today lakhs of electricity employees and engineers across the country stopped work and demonstrated vigorously," an AIPEF statement said.
Shailendra Dubey, Chairman, AIPEF, said in the statement that the power workers took to the streets, boycotting work and protesting against the Bill which has been introduced in the Parliament "in an undemocratic manner with a view to complete privatisation of the energy sector".
As per the statement, electricity employees are demanding that the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 should be withdrawn in its present form and if the government wants to bring it then it should be referred to the standing committee so that all the stakeholders, especially the common electricity consumers and power workers, may get an opportunity to submit their view points.
According to the power engineers' body, the central government in a letter to the Samyukt Kisan Morcha last year had promised that the Bill would not be introduced in the Parliament without having detailed talks with the farmers and other stakeholders.
The central government has not held any talks with the biggest stakeholders, the consumers and representatives of power sector employees, till date, it alleged.
Due to this unilateral action of the Central government, there is a lot of anger among the employees, it said.
AIPEF pointed out that there is a provision in the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 that licences will be given to more than one distribution companies in the same area. New distribution companies from the private sector will supply electricity using the public sector network, it stated.
There is also a provision in the bill that the 'universal power supply obligation' to provide electricity to all categories of consumers will only be applicable on government companies, while private sector suppliers will earn profit by giving electricity only to profitable industrial and commercial consumers as per their wish, it said.
It also pointed out that maintaining the distribution network will be the responsibility of government companies.
In this way private companies will earn profit by paying only some wheeling charges. As a result, government companies will become financially insolvent, it argued.
According to the Bill, subsidies and cross subsidies will be abolished so that the full cost of electricity can be recovered from all categories of consumers, AIPEF said.
If a pumping set of 7.5 horse power is run for six hours, the farmer will have to pay a bill of Rs 10,000 to 12,000 per month. The same will be the case with the common domestic consumers as well. Thus, this bill is neither in the interest of the general public nor in the interest of the employees, the engineers' body said.
Dubey said that on Monday workers at all power generation houses across the country left their work and started demonstrations.
He said that protests were held at Hyderabad, Chennai, Trivandrum, Bangalore, Vijayawada, Lucknow, Patiala, Dehradun, Shimla, Jammu, Srinagar, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune, Vadodara, Raipur, Jabalpur, Bhopal, Ranchi, Guwahati, Shillong, Patna, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur.
He said that through this Bill, the central government is going to amend the Electricity Act 2003, which is going to have far-reaching regressive effects on electricity employees as well as consumers.
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