More than 1,000 power sector engineers and employees staged a strike outside the UrjaBhavan in Meerut, protesting the state government's move to privatise distribution of electricity. Among the striking employees were 150 from Baghpat. Reports said that the statewide strike saw a big impact in Ghaziabad, Meerut and Varanasi, cities for which the state government had appointed Mecon Ltd as consultant to make a feasibility report and estimate the assets of discoms.
No work occurred in power sector offices, and bills could not be paid as centres dealing with the public remained shut. Complaints against power faults and breakdowns were not entertained.
The protest was called by the Power Employees Joint Action Committee (PEJAC), under whose umbrella various power sector unions like Engineers' Union, Junior Engineers Union, Vidyut Mazdoor Panchayat, Vidyut Bijnli Karmcharti Sangh have come together.
PEJAC convener Dilmani Prasad Thapliyal said, "We have decided not to allow any consultant to set foot in Meerut to examine the assets of discoms."
In terms of revenue realization, Meerut and Ghaziabad are some of the best stations in UP. Superintendent engineer, Meerut zone, PK Nigam said, "In Meerut, on a production cost of Rs 3.50 per unit of electricity, revenue realization is Rs 6.65 per unit, which is actually very good. Why is the government hell-bent on selling off profit-making units? Even if they have to privatize the power sector, why are they not considering Saharanpur or Devband, which are loss-making units?"
Similar sentiments were echoed by Avneesh Gupta, executive engineer at the Ghaziabad power distribution centre. "In the urban circles, Ghaziabad revenue realization per unit is Rs 5, whereas on average, the cost of production per unit is Rs 3. So the profit is Rs 2 per unit. Now the government is planning to privatize only profit-making units, whereas rural circles are left out of privatization. It is those circles that make loss. The overall picture shows profit, as the loss is covered up by the profit-making centres. If the government sells profit-making centres, the whole balance will collapse."
Ghaziabad is also an attractive centre for private players because line losses are minimal here, says Gupta adding, "The line losses are 9%, on an average, whereas in the whole of UP, it is 30%."
Agitating leaders said the government provides facilities that fall under the category of "essential commodities" at a minimum price, whereas private players enter the market with the sole aim of reaping profits.
CP Singh, vice president, engineers' union, said, "Currently, the average cost of electricity to the end consumer is Rs 4.90. The same will be escalated to Rs 8 once privatization is in place. No one will be able to stop that."
Engineers and employees fear that their jobs will be at stake in the event of privatization. The private player is bound to minimize cost by employing a fresh lot of technicians at lesser salaries, they say.