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AIFAP voices support for pan-India strike against Electricity (Amendment) Bill

Despite promises to do away with the Electricity Bill, electricity distributor workers and farmers are protesting yet another attempt to amend the Electricity Bill

Sabrangindia 06 Aug 2021

AIFAP

All India Forum Against Privatisation (AIFAP) members on August 3, 2021 expressed whole-hearted support for the nationwide strike of electricity workers on August 10 to decry the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2021.

“On behalf of the AIFAP, we support the struggle that various National Federations and their associated unions of state distribution companies (discoms) are waging under the banner of the National Coordination Committee of Electrical Employees and Engineers against the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2021,” said the AIFAP press release signed by 46 workers organisations.

According to the AIFAP, the Bill will privatise electricity distribution under the pretence of giving consumers a choice to select cheaper and better service. It claimed that the provisions will put the future of over 25 lakh discom employees and their families in danger.

With regards to consumer interest, the private distributor will choose the people it wants to serve to earn maximum profit, said the workers unions. Small consumers in remote areas will suffer as they will not be profitable for private distributors.

“Electricity rates will rise and inflated bills and disconnections will be common. Crores of consumers will be badly hit by the Bill,” said the AIFAP.

Organisations like the Air India Service Engineers Association (AISEA), the All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF), etc voiced a fear that the Bill will compel discoms to provide their distribution infrastructure to private distributors, who will not make any investment in building their own.

“The extensive infrastructure of discoms has been built over the last seventy years by lakhs of electricity workers using lakhs of crores of rupees of public money. How can this infrastructure, which belongs to people, be offered for the use of private distributors for earning profit,” asked AIFAP.

Farmers reject Electricity Amendment Bill

Along with the electricity supply workers union, farmers demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Bill during Monday’s Kisan Sansad. Noting that the 2021 version of the Bill has not been shared on public domain, farmers asked MPs not the table the Bill or similar provisions in the Parliament.

“Electricity being a basic resource for rural production and processing including by farmers, cottage industries, for health, education and other civic services, the policy should be to provide free, high quality, regular supply of electricity, to enable rural people and farmers to benefit from the same,” said Rajasthan farmer leader Rajaram Mil.

Farmer leaders particularly dismayed that the government had expressed intention to table such a Bill despite assurances on December 30, 2020 to withdraw the same upon farmer demands.

Like the AIFAP, farmers claimed the Bill works in favour of the private sector capturing the electricity sub-sector. This raised concern about the Bill’s tariff impact on farmers activities in rural areas as they would get exposed to commercial charges.

Another concern is the removal of cross-subsidies for farmers and other poor consumers. As per Sec.42(2) of the Bill ‘such surcharge and cross subsidies shall be progressively reduced by the State Commission as may be provided in the Tariff Policy,’ while the corporate consumers will benefit with reduced bills.

Meanwhile, subsidy schemes will be converted into direct benefit transfer (DBT) schemes. However, this does not assure the receipt of subsidy in a timely manner and assumes that farmers will manage cash flows.

Farmers claimed that much like the Air Quality Management Bill, the Electricity Amendment Bill takes away power of state authorities in deciding their own policies for tariffs and other aspects, and increases the financial burden on state governments without commensurate inflows. As a result, state governments will either reduce/ end cross-subsidies or bear a higher burden of subsidies in future.

“This goes against the federal spirit of our Constitution. State government’s powers to appoint Chairperson and Members of State Electricity Regulatory Commissions will be taken away, just as powers of the Commissions to address disputes between electricity generators and DISCOMS has been taken away,” said farmer leader Som Singh Punjab.

The AIFAP emphasised that it is the government’s duty to make electricity available at an affordable rate to everyone. The Electricity Act of 1948 stated that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure supply of power in every nook and corner of India.

“It declared that profit should not be the motive of the power sector. The government must honour this commitment to India,” said AIFAP.

Related:

Kisan Sansad urges Parliament to dismiss the AQM Bill
Maharashtra Adivasis still left in the dark!
Letter from Central Trade Unions to the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi
Implementation of Electricity Bill 2021 violates India’s democratic process: AITUC

AIFAP voices support for pan-India strike against Electricity (Amendment) Bill

Despite promises to do away with the Electricity Bill, electricity distributor workers and farmers are protesting yet another attempt to amend the Electricity Bill

AIFAP

All India Forum Against Privatisation (AIFAP) members on August 3, 2021 expressed whole-hearted support for the nationwide strike of electricity workers on August 10 to decry the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2021.

“On behalf of the AIFAP, we support the struggle that various National Federations and their associated unions of state distribution companies (discoms) are waging under the banner of the National Coordination Committee of Electrical Employees and Engineers against the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2021,” said the AIFAP press release signed by 46 workers organisations.

According to the AIFAP, the Bill will privatise electricity distribution under the pretence of giving consumers a choice to select cheaper and better service. It claimed that the provisions will put the future of over 25 lakh discom employees and their families in danger.

With regards to consumer interest, the private distributor will choose the people it wants to serve to earn maximum profit, said the workers unions. Small consumers in remote areas will suffer as they will not be profitable for private distributors.

“Electricity rates will rise and inflated bills and disconnections will be common. Crores of consumers will be badly hit by the Bill,” said the AIFAP.

Organisations like the Air India Service Engineers Association (AISEA), the All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF), etc voiced a fear that the Bill will compel discoms to provide their distribution infrastructure to private distributors, who will not make any investment in building their own.

“The extensive infrastructure of discoms has been built over the last seventy years by lakhs of electricity workers using lakhs of crores of rupees of public money. How can this infrastructure, which belongs to people, be offered for the use of private distributors for earning profit,” asked AIFAP.

Farmers reject Electricity Amendment Bill

Along with the electricity supply workers union, farmers demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Bill during Monday’s Kisan Sansad. Noting that the 2021 version of the Bill has not been shared on public domain, farmers asked MPs not the table the Bill or similar provisions in the Parliament.

“Electricity being a basic resource for rural production and processing including by farmers, cottage industries, for health, education and other civic services, the policy should be to provide free, high quality, regular supply of electricity, to enable rural people and farmers to benefit from the same,” said Rajasthan farmer leader Rajaram Mil.

Farmer leaders particularly dismayed that the government had expressed intention to table such a Bill despite assurances on December 30, 2020 to withdraw the same upon farmer demands.

Like the AIFAP, farmers claimed the Bill works in favour of the private sector capturing the electricity sub-sector. This raised concern about the Bill’s tariff impact on farmers activities in rural areas as they would get exposed to commercial charges.

Another concern is the removal of cross-subsidies for farmers and other poor consumers. As per Sec.42(2) of the Bill ‘such surcharge and cross subsidies shall be progressively reduced by the State Commission as may be provided in the Tariff Policy,’ while the corporate consumers will benefit with reduced bills.

Meanwhile, subsidy schemes will be converted into direct benefit transfer (DBT) schemes. However, this does not assure the receipt of subsidy in a timely manner and assumes that farmers will manage cash flows.

Farmers claimed that much like the Air Quality Management Bill, the Electricity Amendment Bill takes away power of state authorities in deciding their own policies for tariffs and other aspects, and increases the financial burden on state governments without commensurate inflows. As a result, state governments will either reduce/ end cross-subsidies or bear a higher burden of subsidies in future.

“This goes against the federal spirit of our Constitution. State government’s powers to appoint Chairperson and Members of State Electricity Regulatory Commissions will be taken away, just as powers of the Commissions to address disputes between electricity generators and DISCOMS has been taken away,” said farmer leader Som Singh Punjab.

The AIFAP emphasised that it is the government’s duty to make electricity available at an affordable rate to everyone. The Electricity Act of 1948 stated that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure supply of power in every nook and corner of India.

“It declared that profit should not be the motive of the power sector. The government must honour this commitment to India,” said AIFAP.

Related:

Kisan Sansad urges Parliament to dismiss the AQM Bill
Maharashtra Adivasis still left in the dark!
Letter from Central Trade Unions to the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi
Implementation of Electricity Bill 2021 violates India’s democratic process: AITUC

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