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Home News Power Sector News Declaration of the NATIONAL CONVENTION-CUM-SEMINAR ON POWER

Declaration of the NATIONAL CONVENTION-CUM-SEMINAR ON POWER

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This National Convention of power workers convened by the National Campaign Committee of Electricity Employees Unions after discussing in the Seminar on the theme of "Privatisation in Power Industry" and "Power Development and Environment", in which renowned economists, parliamentarians and trade unionists have taken pan, hereby declares:

1. There has been for some time an all-out and concerted drive for privatisation in the power industry. Private sector - local and foreign is being invited into the sphere of power generation and distribution. Successive governments at the Centre have been pursuing this with vigour. Many State Governments are vying with each other in wooing Big capital. Central ministers, Chief Ministers and power ministers are running about addressing chambers of commerce, press conferences, etc. in a high powered propaganda drive to push through this policy. At no stage are talks being held with the trade unions of power workers and engineers. And there they have expressed opposition, they have been arrogantly told to mind their own business and not to try dictate government so on. It reveals the predilection of these governments towards policy reversal has taken place in Parliament or the state legislatures.

2. Our country is faced with a power crisis of serious magnitude. What is called for is an additional installed capacity of 48,000 MW during the 8th Plan, and about 62,000 MW during the 9th Plan. Against this, what is proposed about 38,000 MW during the 8th, and 55,000 MW during the 9th Plan. There are doubts, whether looking to the present schemes these targets are likely to be achieved. Developments in the Gulf have meanwhile heightened the overall energy crisis in our country.

3.A major argument used for privatisation is the severe resource crunch. It is said, government cannot make the investments needed to meet the demand for power, and to achieve the target of power generation. But Ms is not all. Arguments are put forth about the alleged 'efficiency' of the private sector, and failures of the public sector, especially the electricity boards. The efficiency of the private sector was demonstrated recently by the Tatas - the byword for 'efficiency', whose mismanagement was responsible for the total power black-out in Maharashtra.

4. Actually, the privatisation drive is pan of the policy of economic liberalisation advocated by them. It has an ill-concealed ideological edge, sharpened by recent developments in certain countries. It is instigated and backed by the IMF, the World Bank, and Western financial and monopolistic circles and media.

5. /t is conveniently forgotten that the installed capacity in India has gone up from 1362 MW in 1947 to nearly 64,000 MW in 1990, number of villages electrified has gone up from 3060 in 1951 to 460536 in l989 and pumps energised are in tens of millions. Output of power sector has been at 8 to 9 percent per year during this year, in spite of the much lower growth rate of the national economy as a whole. Cost, of power generation could be kept at low level compared even to developed countries in spite of the high cost the country was paying for imported inputs. AH these were possible precisely because this basic infrastructure far development and growth has since freedom been almost exclusively in the public sector and subjected to some measure of national planning. Simultaneously a national socio-economic policy of taking power to the remotest comers of the land, to Harijan basas and Adivasi Huts, supplying agriculture with cheap power and so on, has been pursued.

6. To lure the private sector a package of incentives is being offered to monopolists, NRIs, TNCs and NRIs who act as thin covers for the TNCs. It is obvious that the scale of huge investments and organisational structure that are required here, are beyond the capacity of any but toe biggest monopoly houses. On the plea that rupee resources are scarce foreign credits and foreign financed imports of power equipments and turnkey projects are being encouraged. Indigenous power equipment capacities, such as of BHEL, would thus remain under the doors are being thrown open to local monopolists and TNCs, replacing state monopoly by private and foreign ones, which is what we bad set out to prevent. This would thwart the social objectives of our power development policy, and the political-economic conditions, in which it can thrive.

7. The private sector is holding out and blackmailing government for further concessions. The latter are only too willing to bend forward to accommodate them. It would in effect mean that most of the resources would come from public financial institutions, the capital market, and foreign sources under-written by government, and only a small portion from the private resources of the entrepreneurs. It would also mean 'guaranteed profits' for the private sector while saddling the state sector with all the losses.

8. To facilitate privatisation, the Electricity Supply Act (1948) is to be amended and a bill to this effect is being introduced in Parliament.

9. In our view, the old Act certainly needs to be amended in several respects, but surely not for opening the floodgates to privatisation. It requires amendments that will take into account the technological advances made, and the accumulated experience of running the boards, during four decades. It requires amendments that will strengthen the financial and organisational structure of the boards, introduce both professionalism and democratism in management, that will institutionalise by law workers' participation in management, and strengthen the autonomy of the boards.

Concessions held out for the private sector can be made available to the boards, for raising resources and earning returns. Steps for making good the losses due to supply of power for agricultural and domestic use at less than the cost of generation and distribution, for raising the plant load factor and lowering the transmission losses cna be undertaken in cooperation with organisations of workers and engineers. The Convention there-fore rejects the arguments put forward for privatisation, and declares its commitment to the strengthening and improvement of the public sector in power.

10. In order to overcome the difficult resources position, what is needed foremost is to see power development in the country or the electrification of the country, as a well planned natural task. The policy based on self reliance and standardised power equipment can cut-down drastically the capital cost, improve the efficiency and generate and distribute electricity at lower cost. By planning the investment programme in the power sector as a total integrated national endeavor, will also create millions of job opportunities by reducing dependency on imported inputs. Entry of private sector into the power sector will subvert such attempts for planned developments for self reliance, thereby increasing the cost of power development and ultimately in increased prices for electricity. Such a policy shift in a basic sector like Power Generation will adversely affect the growth and development of national economy and increase the dependency of the country.

11. The Convention demands that a halt be called to the wholesale drive for privatisation, and each case for grant of fresh license be examined on merit in consultation with legislature, public bodies and workers' organisations. In our conditions, there can be no question of dethroning the public sector in energy industries from their present 'commanding heights' if we have to pursue our socio-economic objective of developing the farm, the cooperative, small handicraft and self-employed sectors, contribute towards building an agro-industrial economy which is both growth and employment-oriented, and which effectively influence investment and growth policies in the private sector.

12. We are noting that in a number of states, projects are already being indiscriminately thrown open to private sector. Tenders are being invited negotiations held and terms settled with private parties. Trade unions are of course resisting these attempts, through militant mass actions, such as in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, etc. The Convention calls for coordinated national and statewide actions, jointly by workers' and engineers' organisations. Public figures, economists, legislators, journalists, should be drawn into this campaign against privatisation.

13. The additional power generation target envisaged for the 8th Plan was reduced to 38,000 MW for the original target of 48,006 MW. Against it is stated that the Planning Commission has further reduced to 25,000 MW. There-fore the power crisis already existing in the country will be further intensified and we are being led to darkness. This will adversely affect our all-round development. Therefore this convention demands that the power generation target should be enhanced immediately, resources should be mobilised, steps should be taken to implement the project on war footings.

14. The Convention proposes to:

(a) Conduct state wise seminars on the problems of power development during the month of Jan. or Feb. !991.

(0) Conduct state wise rallies during the month of Feb. or March.

(c) Observe one day Mass Dharna in front of Sramasakthi Bhavan (Ministry of Energy and Labour), New Delhi, the date of which will be decided later.

15. At the same time energy trade unions should struggle to improve the performance of the public sector, curb corruption and inefficiency and develop a better 'work culture'. They should struggle to democratise the management and functioning of the boards and undertakings. Trade unions should emphasis on developing internal resources, exploiting our vast hydel potential, building up nuclear power, utilising extensively non-conventional sources, and paying attention to energy conservation, as elements of a comprehensive energy policy.

16. Power development in our Country, like elsewhere, is coming up against environmental problems. We hold that it is the rapacious and predatory activities of capitalists out for earning 'super-profits' and ignoring of certain elementary norms and standards of environmental protection both by private and public enterprises, which are responsible for endangering environment and upsetting the ecological balance. This has helped a number of pseudo-environmentalists and many who are misled or have genuine misgivings to obstruct development altogether, and counterpose one against the other. We hold that power development, like other development, is not incompatible with environmental protection.

17. But this calls for adequate soda! and economic measures, proper safety standards and suitable political steps which would ensure protection of the environment, rehabilitation of the affected persons, and so on. This calls for active trade union intervention, which is unfortunately lacking today.

18. The Convention calls upon all power workers, while struggling for improvement in their wages and service conditions, for a national standard of wages and allowances on par with other public sector workers, for a stop to the spread of contract system in the industry and for regularisation of all casual and muster roll and contract employees for absorption of apprentice youth and for lifting the ban on recruitment, etc. to also mobilise their strength on the above mentioned policy issues, so as to end the power crisis, and make power available to the people for all-round development.
 

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