The Akhilesh Yadav government in UP is all set for a fresh round of bout with the Modi government at the Centre, this time over the electricity amendment bill that potentially paves way for blanket privatization of power supply to the consumers.
UP state power minister Yasar Shah confirmed that the state government had already sent its objection to the Union power ministry about the bill that seeks to bring in private players between the distribution companies and the consumers. The Samajwadi Party is now all set to oppose the bill which is likely to be tabled in the monsoon session of parliament scheduled to begin from July 21
"It is not feasible either socially or politically. Power supply cannot be on the lines of mobile services. There are all the chances that the private players would discriminate among consumers," Shah said. UP government stand falls in line with its commitment to increase the power supply in rural and urban areas by the end of 2016.
The bill essentially envisages a policy of 'carriage and content'. Under this, the role of a distribution company would be limited to wheeling in power to a pole. From there, it will be the private company which would give connection to consumers and recover revenue. "Accordingly, the distribution companies would enter into a power purchase agreement with private parties who, not surprisingly, would aim to make profit," said a power official.
UP is one of 18 states, including Gujarat, Maharashtra and Bihar, which have made their objections clear about the bill. Gujarat has said that the actual implementation of the act would be difficult at the ground level and would, in fact, lead to collapse of the system. Bihar too has said that it would lead to monopoly with increasing chances of discrimination. Maharashtra government has apprehended cherry picking of some customers and not taking the rest of them.
The proposed amendment has agitated UP's power engineers as well who threaten to go on a strike the day the bill gets passed in parliament. The National Co-ordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE), a platform of all major Federations of Power sector Employees and Engineers of the country, on July 1, sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister office citing its concern about the proposed amendment. The committee said that 30 crore people of India still did not have access to electricity. In the course of enactment of Electricity Act, 2003, the Government of India assured cheaper electricity for all by 2007 through improved efficiency and competition.
"But that never happened. Instead, the tariff has been escalating continuously,'' said Shaieldra Dubey, member of the committee and chairman of All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF). "Instead the Central government has initiated electricity (amendment) bill, to pave the way of private participation in the power supply sector without any investment of capital for improvement of the industry,'' he said. Dubey said that the bill would be a ruinous attempt of segregating electricity distribution to put burden on the state-owned distribution companies while the private supply companies will enjoy the benefit.