1.5 million power employees to strike on Aug 10 against Bill
Nearly 1.5 million public sector power employees across India will resort to a day’s strike on August 10 against the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2021. The proposed bill, which will amend the Electricity Act 2003, is listed for tabling in the coming monsoon session of Parliament.
Nearly 1.5 million public sector power employees, including engineers, across India will resort to a day’s strike on August 10 against the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2021.
The proposed bill, which will amend the Electricity Act 2003, is listed for tabling in the coming monsoon session of Parliament.
“The Bill will result in unbridled privatization of the energy distribution sector,” All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) chairman Shailendra Dubey said.
In case the government tries to pass the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2021 before August 10, the strike will be preponed to the same day, he warned.
He demanded the Bill should not be ‘rushed through’ and instead it be referred to the Parliament’s standing committee on energy. “The main stakeholders, including power consumers and employees, should be given the opportunity to place their viewpoint before placing it (the Bill) in Parliament.”
Dubey noted the Electricity Act 2003 allowed the privatization of generation through de-licensing, and now the proposed Bill will pave the path for the privatization of power distribution through de-licensing.
“The private companies will go cherry-picking in supplying electricity to consumers and prefer to supply to only high-revenue-earning industrial and commercial consumers, which will drive state discoms (distribution companies) to further bankruptcy,” he claimed.
The decision to go on strike was taken on Tuesday in a virtual meeting of the National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE), which was chaired by Dubey.
The power employees will hold protest meetings on July 19 across the country. NCCOEEE core committee members will meet the Union power minister on July 27 at New Delhi to hand over a memorandum against the proposed Bill.
“The office-bearers of various organizations will start a four-day satyagraha in New Delhi on August 3 after holding state-level conventions in all state capitals on July 29,” Dubey said.
He alleged the Centre had not made any effort to discuss the issues with the engineers and other employees. “The move to de-license power distribution is no way to ensure efficient and cost-effective electricity supply to citizens. Unless the reform is designed scrupulously, taking into account ground realities, the well-intended objective of 'choice to consumers' may not be fulfilled.”
The move to abolish cross-subsidy in a time-bound manner and propose a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to consumers by the state governments will snatch away the rights of access to electricity for farmers and poor domestic consumers, he lamented.
He noted the Centre seemed more concerned about the profitability of private companies than about protecting consumer interests.
(Virendra Singh Rawat is a Lucknow-based financial and economic journalist.)