Chennai: The employees of the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) are protesting against privatisation of various works in the corporation, such as maintenance and operation. The privatisation move is based on the recent amendments in the Electricity Act, 2003, which are in line with the policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government that been on a privatisation spree across sectors.
The employees, who held a day-long dharna on November 4, in particular, accused the TANGEDCO Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of giving a major push to privatisation without even consulting the state government. The dharna saw massive participation of around half a lakh workers, the union said.
‘STOP PRIVATISATION PUSH’
The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020 has recommended massive privatisation of discoms (distribution companies). The key objectives of the Bill include promoting the ‘ease of doing business’ and providing the Central government more power to determine tariff and regulations among others. The term ‘ease of doing business’ has been accommodated in several Acts by the present Bharatiya Janata Party regime aimed at supporting private corporate players, unions have said time and again.
The recent couple of months have seen the impact of the amendments made in the Electricity Act, 2003, with massive privatisation of various works in the TANGEDCO. The crucial works include the maintenance of sub-stations and high-tension lines.
“The maintenance and operation of three sub-stations are allotted to private firms at the cost of Rs 93,54,000 for a period of two years. The CMD has also approved a tender for maintenance of high-tension cables of 300-km length for three years for Rs 3 crore. These steps are aimed at mass privatisation of works which will affect the employees as well as the general public”, said Jai Shankar, president of Central Organisation of Tamil Nadu Electricity Employees (COTEE).
The unions allege that the state government is yet to decide on privatisation of works in the corporation, while the CMD is pushing for privatisation.
The JAC, in which 18 unions are members, also warned of more struggles, including strike, if the privatisation push continues. Recently, the employees of the Uttar Pradesh Electricity Board also held massive protests against the privatisation move by the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government.
APPOINTMENT OF RETIREES FLAYED
Notably, contract workers of TANGEDCO had held huge across the state during October 2019, demanding regularisation of jobs and fair wages in existing vacancies. But, the corporation and the government of Tamil Nadu, continue to neglect these demands, the workers said.
Even worse, the corporation has started appointing retired employees in sub-stations, which will affect the job- seekers as well as contract workers awaiting regularisation. The number of vacancies has increased to 52,000, an increase of over 9,000 over a period of one year, resulting in an increase in workload of permanent and contract workers.
A JAC statement: “The aspirations of educated youth are being demolished by the appointment of retirees in existing vacancies. Moreover, several thousands of contract workers have been awaiting regularisation for years. The corporation is functioning without looking into the adverse impacts of privatisation of electricity distribution and generation in states like Maharashtra and Odisha”.
The supervision of works in electricity generation projects is also being allocated to private firms, said the protestors. The absence of supervisory officers representing the corporation could lead to compromise in the quality of work in the sites, they alleged.
CMD PURSUING ‘ANTI-WORKER’ POLICIES
The CMD of TANGEDCO, Pankaj Kumar Bansal, who took charge during the end of June 2020 after a minor reshuffle of administrative officers, who is being accused of pursuing anti-worker policies, has refused to meet trade union leaders after taking charge, a customary procedure that has been followed for long, alleged the trade union leaders.
The CMD also cancelled the weekly meeting with union representatives to settle labour disputes. He cited the pandemic as a reason for the cancellation, while instructing the joint MD (managing director) to participate in the meeting. The protestors alleged that the CMD is the decision-making authority and hence meeting any other official won’t help in sorting out the labour issues.
Another major allegation of the employees is with the “untimely transfer” of engineers in power generation projects under construction. The transfers, they said, were putting the brakes on construction works resulting in the reduction of the expected quality in work.
The CMD of TANGEDCO has also been accused of pursuing the same policies while he was functioning as the CMD of the Chennai Metro Rail Corporation (CMRL). The tenure of the officer saw strike by the CMRL workers, followed by victimisation while massive privatisation and contractualisation was also pushed.