The controversial amendments proposed to the Electricity Act are back in focus once again with a two-day power ministers' conference called by Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal in Kochi next week expected to discuss the matter.
The conference on November 6 and 7, meant to discuss a host of issues pertaining to the sector, is significant in that it comes ahead of the winter session of Parliament, where the BJP government is expected to try and push through the reforms. Alleging that the amendments are intended to help private monopolies, power sector unions have announced a protest march to the conference venue in Bolghatty on November 6 under the aegis of the National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE). The march will be attended by power sector employees from all the southern states.
"We also hope to submit a memorandum to the Union Minister regarding the issue," said M G Suresh Kumar, general secretary of Kerala State Electricity Board Officers Association (KSEBOA), one of the constituents of NCCOEEE. The unions have also called a nationwide power sector strike on December 8.
Segregation of 'content' and 'carriage' in power distribution, one of the reforms proposed, is seen by the state-run power utilities and the unions as the biggest threat.
This reform will allow private players to use distribution lines and other existing facilities to supply power to consumers. But instead of fostering a healthy competition, it will enable private power distribution companies 'cherry-pick' high-end consumers, leaving state-run utilities like the KSEB facing heavy losses, according to the unions. Consequently, the reforms will end the cross-subsidy regime resulting in power tariff hikes, the unions say.
On its part, Kerala has conveyed its stand to the Centre on the proposed reforms, Power Minister Aryadan Mohammed said. "The matter has also been taken up separately through the MPs," he said.
Although the bill was expected to be taken up in Parliament's monsoon session, it had been put off owing to protests by the states and trade unions. The two-day conference of Power Ministers in Kochi will discuss - apart from sector reforms - issues related to coal production and supply, power generation and transmission, promotion of renewables and energy conservation.
Source- Indian Express