Even as the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government has finally relented to underwrite the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL) employees’ Provident Fund (PF)—illegally invested in scam-hit Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Ltd. (DHFL)—the power sector employees’ troubles are only set to begin, as the government continues to push for privatisation of the sector.
Following a 48-hour work boycott and statewide protest demonstrations on November 14 by power sector workers across departments and districts, the Adityanath government on November 23 announced, as widely reported, to underwrite the outstanding corpus of around Rs 2,267 crore.
However, the BJP government also announced that the PF corpus would be disinvested yet again in the housing finance market, which is witnessing historic lows. Out of the two NBFCs, one is LIC Housing Finance, backed by LIC. It is the sole HFC sailing smoothly. PNB Housing Finance, on the other hand, is backed by trouble-ridden public sector bank PNB, and which itself has raised Rs 2,500 crore from LIC Housing Finance by way of non-convertible debentures (NCDs).
Meanwhile, power sector engineers across the country are set to resort to a one-day work boycott on January 8, 2020—in protest against the Modi government’s move to introduce multiple private supply licensees for electricity. This was announced by the All India Power Engineers’ Federation (AIPEF) on November 24.
If an amendment bill—by way of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill that the power employees have been fighting against for a few years now—is introduced in Parliament during the winter session, the power engineers would go on flash strike.
The one-day nationwide work boycott is being organised under the banner of the National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE), an umbrella organisation of 1.5 million power sector workers and engineers.
The proposed changes are aimed at benefiting the big power companies, said AIPEF spokesperson VK Gupta, while making state-owned power distribution companies suffer losses and resulting in such steep hikes in power tariff that eventually becomes unaffordable even for the middle class, let alone farmers and the poor.
The AIPEF said the sole aim of the proposed bill is “to create scope of business for private enterprises in power distribution without any investment. They will be given separate profitable segments like sale of electricity to major industry, commercial establishments, railways splitting from un-remunerative loss making segments like rural households and agricultural consumers.”
AIPEF questioned the Modi government about its failure to fulfil its promise of cheaper power for all through boosting of efficiency and competition among private entrepreneurs—with the implementation of the Electricity Act 2003. “Multiple times tariff escalation with connivance of regulators and private players in power sector gave horrible experience through last 25 years.”
The 2003 Act led to the dismantling of the State Electricity Board (SEB), which was trifurcated into separate generation, transmission and distribution utilities, so that private players could enter power generation. The move was resisted only by Kerala and, for some time, Himachal Pradesh. Meanwhile, the private players in thermal power generations have raked up a mountain of NPAs, thus pushing the sector into crisis. The AIPEF has demanded integration of all the ‘unbundled’ power utilities in form of SEB Ltd, as well as implementation of the old pension scheme.