Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee correspondent
Union Territory Powermen’s Union, Chandigarh, has given a notice to the Chandigarh Administration for a 72-hour strike from 22 to 24 February to oppose the illegal privatisation of the profit-making electricity department of Chandigarh. Electricity workers had earlier observed a 24-hour strike on 1 February against privatisation and announced that they would go on a longer strike if the government did not change its attitude.
When the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2021 has not yet been introduced in the parliament, the privatisation of the electricity department of Chandigarh, which is a profit-making department, is illegal. The government is adopting one policy for most union territories of the country and another for Chandigarh. Till now, it has been the policy of the central government that only loss-making departments will be privatised, but this does not apply to Chandigarh. Another argument that privatisation will increase competition and benefit the consumers also does not hold true in case of Chandigarh. This is because 100% share of the entire department is being handed over to a private capitalist. Further, this is a capitalist whose electricity rates are highest in the whole country. In Chandigarh, the rate of electricity is Rs. 2.50 per unit up to 150 units and maximum Rs. 4.50 thereafter. However, the rate of Eminent Company, which is the winning bidder, is Rs. 7.17 per unit for 150 units and Rs. 8.92 after 300 units. The Power Minister of the country has also acknowledged this reality, but the people of Chandigarh are still being abandoned to be looted by private companies.
The annual turnover of the department is more than Rs. 1,000 crores, and the market value of its total assets is Rs. 20,000–25,000 crores. This department is being sold for only Rs. 871 crores although it has earned profits of more than Rs. 1,000 crores in the last 5 years alone. Therefore, there is no justification for privatising the electricity department.
To make privatisation more profitable for the capitalist, the government is talking about charging only Re. 1 per month for 25 years as lease for the land and buildings, which is completely unfair. It is not justifiable in any way to sell the electricity department, which was built with the blood and sweat of the public, for a pittance in this manner.
It is clear that privatisation will put electricity out of reach of common people.
Electricity workers have organised a joint convention of the city’s political parties, mohalla committees, village struggle committees, trade boards, trade unions and social organizations on 7 February 2022 in which cooperation will be sought in the fight against privatization because this issue affects not only workers but also all citizens of Chandigarh. The union has appealed to all sections of the society to support the strike of electricity workers.