Oppose the Electricity Amendment Bill 2021!

Meeting organised by AIFAP on 15th August 2021

Report by KEC correspondent

AIFAP organised a public meeting on August 15, 2021 to oppose the Electricity Amendment Bill 2021. It was attended by nearly 200 leaders and participants from electricity, railways, port & docks, petroleum, BSNL, banks and activists from people’s organisations.

Com A. Mathew, Convener of AIFAP, welcomed the participants as well as the speakers, Shri Shailendra Dubey, Chairman, All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) and Shri Abhimanyu Dhankhar, Secretary General, All India Federation of Power Diploma Engineers (AIFOPDE).

Com A. Mathew also welcomed the large number of national leaders from various All India Federations and associations of different sectors who were attending the webinar in solidarity with the electricity workers. These included:

  1. Shri L. N. Pathak, Zonal Secretary, Northern Railway, All India Federation of Indian Railwaymen (AIRF) and General Secretary, Rail Coach Factory Men’s Union, Rae Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh,
  2. Shri Rohit Mishra, Organising Secretary, Rail Coach Factory Men’s Union, Rae Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh,
  3. Shri Sanjay Thakur, General Secretary, Association of Power Engineers, Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB),
  4. Shri Someshwaran, Association of Electrical Engineers, Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB),
  5. Shri R. K. Trivedi, President, All India Federation of Power Diploma Engineers (AIFOPDE),
  6. Shri K. C. James, Joint General Secretary, All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA),
  7. Shri Kishore Nair (General Secretary) and Shri Stanny Monteiro, Bharat Petroleum Technical and Non-Technical Employees Association – Mumbai Refinery,
  8. Shri R.M. Murthy, Secretary, General Secretary, All India Port and Dock Workers Association,
  9. Shri V.V. Satyanarayana, Joint Secretary, Hind Mazdoor Sabha Vishakhapatnam Port Employees Union (All India Port and Dock Workers Federation),
  10. Shri Naib Singh, General Secretary, Rail Coach Factory Men’s Congress, Rae Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh,
  11. Shri Amzad Baig, Central President, All India Pointsmen Association (AIPMA),
  12. Shri V. K. Jain, Zonal Secretary, Western Central Railway (WCR), All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA),
  13. Shri D. K. Saha, Co- Convenor, National Coordination Committee of Electricity Engineers and Employees, Assam,
  14. Shri K.V. Ramesh, Senior Joint General Secretary, Indian Railway Technical Supervisors Association (IRTSA),
  15. Shri P.S. Sesodia, Central Vice President and Director Education/Trade Union/Uttariya Railway Mazdoor Union/NFIR,
  16. Urmila Dogra, General Secretary, Women’s Wing, Uttariya Railway Mazdoor Union,
  17. Shri Nitin Deshpande, All India Bank Officers Confederation (AIBOC),
  18. Shri Rabi Sen, Indian Railway Employees Confederation (IREF),
  19. Shri Custodio Mendonca, General Secretary, All India Port and Dock Workers Pensioners Association,
  20. Shri Pranav Kumar, Working President, Mumbai Division, All India Rail Track Maintainers Union (AIRTU),
  21. Shri S. K. Kulshreshta, ex-Central Vice President, All India Station Masters Association,
  22. Shri Nirmal Mukherjee, ex General Secretary, Chittaranjan Loco Works Labour Union, Asansol, West Bengal,
  23. Nirmala Pawar- Bharatiya Mahila Federation,
  24. Shri J. Vishwakarma, Socialist Unity Centre of India- Communist
  25. Shri Dattu Kajale, Socialist Unity Centre of India- Communist and
  26. Shri Avinash Kadam, Thane Citizens Committee.

Shri S N Dubey talked about the struggle that the electricity employees and engineers of India have been waging against privatisation of electricity all over the country and the formation of National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE), while Shri Abhimanyu Dhankhar gave a presentation how the Electricity Amendment Bill 2021will have very harmful consequences for the ordinary consumers, the working people of town and country.

Both the presentations were very insightful and were appreciated by all the participants. There were a large number of interventions from the participants in which they expressed the need for the working class to unite and also to mobilise all sections of the people to build a united struggle against the anti-worker anti-people and anti-national policies of the ruling classes.

The presentation by Shri Abhimanyu Dhankhar on how the Electricity Amendment Bill 2021will have very harmful consequences for the ordinary consumers, the working people of town and country is already uploaded on the AIFAP website. Please click on the link to see the presentation.

Presentation at the National Webinar of AIFAP to oppose the Electricity Amendment Bill 2021 – AIFAP

The highlights of the speech by Shri S N Dubey on the struggle that the electricity employees and engineers of India have been waging against privatisation of electricity all over the country and the formation of National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE) are given below.

Highlights of the speech by Shri Shailendra Dubey, Chairman, All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) in the meeting organised by AIFAP against the privatisation of the electricity sector on 15 August 2021

In 1993 the government started unbundling of State Electricity Boards (SEB’s). First Odisha SEB was unbundled. Till 2003, the old electricity act had not been amended. But the states were making their own laws and they were breaking the SEB’s with the aim of privatising them in due course. In 1998 it was decided to unbundle the SEB in UP, also in the name of electricity reform.

The UP Electricity Workers Committee had been formed in 1980 itself. I was one of the founding members. Four unions together came to form the samiti. There are 19 major unions working in the power sector today. All these unions came together and formed a Sangharsh Samiti in UP. All these unions went on strike on 14th January 2000, against the decision of the UP government to unbundle the SEB. 22,000 workers and engineers went on strike. 20,000 workers were dismissed. The National Security Act (NSA) was applied to many leaders and they were jailed. I was also one of those arrested and put in solitary confinement along with 84 others. It was a BJP government at the time. However the print media and electronic media spread the news all over India. Kerala was the first state where the electricity workers decided to go on strike in protest against the arrest of the UP electricity workers. After this all over India all electricity workers went on a day long strike.

After the successful struggle in UP, it was decided to form the NCCOEEE (National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers) in which employees, engineers and even contract workers would be represented. On 30th April 2000, in Jaipur, a National Convention was held. I want to salute Com AB Bardhan, who was President of All India Federation of Electricity Employees (AIFEE) at the time, for the formation of NCCOEEE. The President of Electricity Employees Federation of India (EEFI) also contributed to its formation and even the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) unions also joined it. So when it was founded NCCOEEE had unions affiliated to AITUC, CITU, INTUC, BMS, Diploma Engineers’ Federations, Power Engineers’ Federations and independent organisations. BMS was part of NCCOEEE until 2015. After Narendra Modi came, pressure was put on BMS unions in every sector to withdraw from joint struggles.
However in UP, where it started, the Samyukta Vidyut Karmachari Sangharsh Samiti still has BMS affiliated union as a part of it and they take part in every agitation taking place in UP! They participated even in the recent dharna program held in Delhi. The members of BMS affiliated union are also workers and employees. We should try to keep them with us.

NCCOEE has held many National as well as Sate level Conventions. In our country there are 5 grids – the Northern, Western, Southern, Eastern and North Eastern grids. Accordingly, we organised NCCOEEE Regional Conventions. A Core Committee has been formed at National level in which there are all the Presidents and General Secretaries of all the organisations. Such committees have also been formed in all states. The organisations that are not present at national level, but only at state levels are represented in the state level coordination committees.

NCCOEEE has fought many battles. Our biggest success has been Kerala. The NCCOEEE Kerala Chapter’s success is that they did not allow unbundling of electricity in their state after the Electricity Amendment Act 2003 was passed in the parliament. The Left Front government of Kerala also supported them. Even though it was opposed by then Congress led Central Government and later by the BJP led Central Government, till date in Kerala, generation, transmission and distribution are integrated under the Kerala State Electricity Board Limited (KSEB). Integrated generation, transmission and distribution like in Kerala is one of the main demands of NCCOEEE.

NCCOEEE’s other big success was in Himachal Pradesh which had a BJP government. The NCCOEEE state chapter put the example of Kerala before the Chief Minister. So even in Himachal Pradesh, generation, transmission and distribution are integrated under Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board Limited (HPSEBL).

All this shows that in even in difficult circumstances we can achieve success if we can make grass roots unity possible.

In Uttar Pradesh also they tried so many times to privatise electricity distribution that I cannot enumerate them all here. They tried in NOIDA, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Allahabad, Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Varanasi, and so on but they could not make even one a success. Unfortunately in Agra, Torrent has taken over, but in Kanpur, after 3 years, Torrent had to leave after cancelling the agreement.

All these successes were due to the unity of electricity workers and not due to any other reason. There is no political or other force that helps and the above examples have shown that.

Recently on 17th April, 2020, they introduced the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 (EAB2020) during the pandemic. But the NCCOEEE state chapters talked to the different Chief Ministers and political parties and leaders and as a result, the Kerala Chief Minister wrote a letter opposing the Bill. The Telengana Chief Minister also wrote a letter and said if EAB 2020 is brought in Parliament, then their representatives will cause “hangama”. Similarly the chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry, Jharkhand, West Bengal, etc. also opposed the bill in writing. 12 Chief Ministers have opposed this bill. Our biggest success was in Bihar, where there is a BJP coalition government and the Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar also wrote against the Bill! So they could not pass EAB 2020.

During her Budget Speech the Finance Minister, announced on 1st February 2021 that electricity distribution is going to be delicensed and now they have announced the Electricity Amendment Bill 2021. But it was done secretly. Even now it is not on the Power Ministry website. We have started opposing this already. On February 2nd, 2021, all over the country, electricity employees and engineers held demonstrations. They wanted to place the bill in the Budget session itself but because of our continuous opposition they could not place it in Parliament.

Then before the Monsoon Session, the Union Power Minister said that under any circumstances, the Bill will be passed in the Parliament. We saw how Monsoon ession was run; it was a murder of democracy. In Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, 20 bills were passed. The worst was the Essential Defence Services Ordinance (EDSO) and General Insurance Act. They wanted to pass EAB 2021 also.

EAB 2021 has only one aim of handing over the ready-made infrastructure to private corporate for looting. These corporates have not made any capital investment so far in creating power infrastructure. They have contributed neither to its progress nor to its maintenance. They will make profit on public investment. Just like they passed General Insurance Bill, they can pass EAB 2021 any time. But the day they will do it we will be on the streets. Ram Manohar Lohia had said that “When the streets are silent, the Parliament is without direction”. The electricity workers have decided to break the silence of the streets and we will smash it.

To oppose EAB 2021, we had decided that on the day the Monsoon session of Parliament commenced, that is on July 19th 2021, all over India, in every zilla, in every office, we will have demonstrations. This was carried out. We also planned and successfully carried out a 4 day Satyagraha program in Delhi involving workers and engineers from all the grids.

On the first day, on 3rd August, a large number of electricity employees and engineers had gathered from the Northern Grid and demonstrated not far from the Parliament. But on the next day, when electricity employees and engineers from Eastern and North Eastern Grid started arriving at the venue of the protest, they were shocked to find the entire place barricaded by a huge number of police and they were not allowed to demonstrate. In spite of this they took out a procession shouting slogans against the undemocratic action of the police. The police registered cases against the leaders of the electricity employees and engineers. The leaders told the police that they could arrest them but if they do so, electricity employees all over India would court arrest. The police had to back down. This undemocratic action of the police angered electricity workers all over India who felt their legitimate right to protest was being denied. This resulted in an even larger number of people gathering in Delhi on the next two days, from Western and Southern Grids respectively. On the last day, there was a large contingent of women electricity employees and engineers from the South. The anger of the electricity employees and engineers was evidenced by all.

The electricity workers of India have dared to break the silence of the streets. Because of this the EAB (Electricity Amendment Bill) 2021 was not brought before Parliament.

This fight is not over; it will continue and we are getting ready for the winter session. The brains of the rulers have got damaged, the way they are behaving and standing with the corporates. The ordinary workers are angry and we should mobilise them. Permanent jobs are being denied to the people, outsourcing is being done and infrastructure is being sold. Electricity infrastructure is being sold for one rupee in Chandigarh and Dadra Nagar Haveli. It is our duty to raise our voice against this dictatorship.

I would like to end my speech by quoting Dushyant Kumar. “Everybody is in the crowd. If you can get out of this, then come. It is hot outside. If you can bear it, then come.

“Inquilab Zindabad!

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Mansi
Mansi
7 months ago

Electricity is a basic necessity like Roti, Kapda and Makaan. The government’s drive to privatise it (since 1993!) so that few corporate houses can make a profit out of it is an inhuman, anti-people and anti-national act. I salute the employees and workers of the electricity sector for the fight they had been putting up for so long and continue to do so even today.
Even today, the majority of the consumers are not aware of the ill effects of privatisation on them. The mainstream media portraits a poor picture of the struggles of the workers and glorifies the effect of privatisation. This is the divide and rule policy of the government headed by the capitalist class of this country to keep the working class divided.
It is important for the people to understand that privatisation of all the public sectors is not in their favour. In spite of all the fights that the electricity employees have put up, the government is still going ahead with the Electricity Amendment Bill 2021. What kind of a democracy is this, where the needs of people are not taken into account? Where the voices of lakhs of people are crushed so that the capitalist class can flourish?
The government in this current system is not held accountable for its action. We need a system where people elected are held accountable for their actions and the majority has every right to call them off when they fail to fulfil their duties. We need a system where there is no exploitation of the toiling masses and they have the decision-making power in their hands.