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Home News Power Sector News Power Employees To Hold Nationwide Strike on 2018 December 7 Against Privatisation Bill

Power Employees To Hold Nationwide Strike on 2018 December 7 Against Privatisation Bill

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StrikePower sector employees across India will go on a 24-hour strike on 7 December 2018 in protest against the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2014 — which seeks to extend privatisation to the distribution of electricity, and consequently, to snatch away the right to electricity of the poor.

And in case the BJP-led NDA government attempts to introduce the Bill in Parliament before that date, then the electricity employees’ unions will observe a flash strike.

These decisions were taken unanimously on 8 June 2018 in Delhi during the National Convention of the National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE) — a platform of all unions and federations in the power sector with more than 2.5 million members.

More than 500 employees and engineers of electricity departments from across the country turned up for the National Convention held in association with all the major central trade unions to plan out the future course of action against the amendment Bil. Electricity employees have been opposing the Bill, which seeks to replace the Electricity Act 2003, ever since it was first introduced in December 2014.

The Bill seeks to bifurcate the distribution of power into into carriage (the distribution network carrying the electricity to consumers) and supply (or the sale of electricity to consumers).

Basically, the government will lay down the wires that carry the electricity up to the consumer, while private companies will do the actual selling of the electricity. The Bill also introduces multiple supply licensees who would be supplying electricity, so they would be competing over selling the power. But one of the supply licensees has to be a government-owned licensee, who can cater to the loss-making segments of consumers, such as rural households and farmers. The move is clearly meant to separate out the more profitable aspects of distribution that can be taken over by the private players. This will create the scope of business for private enterprises in power distribution without any investment.

Speaking at the Convention, Shailendra Dubey, the chairman of the All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF), said the government’s claim that consumers would be able to choose from among power suppliers in the same way that they currently choose from among mobile phone service providers was false. That is because while everyone pays the same rate for using the cell phone network, electricity is provided at different rates to different categories of consumers. Small-scale consumers like households and farmers are usually given electricity at subsidised rates, while large-scale consumers like industrial units are charged more. This cross-subsidy from large consumers helps the distribution companies (discoms) to provide cheap electricity to the people.

However, given that the Bill mandates that one of the  supply licensees has to be a government agency, it is clear that the intention is to make the government companies cater to these loss-making segments — given that private companies operate with the sole intention of making profits and would not venture into losses. This will saddle the government discoms with more and more mounting losses.

Already, the state-owned distribution companies (discoms) have accumulated total losses and debt of over Rs 9 lakh crore, said Dubey, who was among those helming the successful power employees’ movement in Uttar Pradesh that forced the state BJP government to roll back the move to privatise power distribution.

 

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