By Shri Girish Bhave, Joint Secretary, Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC)
Workers from all sectors should take up a campaign to expose all such anti- consumer actions by managements of public Sector Enterprises (PSEs), and such campaigns should be taken to consumers. Such actions will definitely help us to multiply the support of consumers for our struggle against privatisation.
The Central Government and various state governments use various false excuses to justify the privatisation of Public Sector Enterprises. One such routinely used excuse is “uncollected bills worth tens of thousands of crores from electricity consumers”. Various ministers of the Maharashtra State Government have gone on record with this excuse for justifying the privatisation of electricity distribution in Maharashtra. They have gone to the extent of blaming workers of the government owned Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) for the overdue payments.
All the workers’, engineers’ and officers’ unions have time and again exposed the truth that due to the policies of the Maharashtra State Government, dues from agricultural consumers are pending and thousands of crores are pending from various state government departments and local government bodies like Gram Panchayats, Zilla Parishads and Municipal Corporations.
Recently, a letter written by the General Secretary of the Maharashtra State Electricity Workers Federation to the administration has revealed some other shocking facts. The letter states that as of 17th March 2022, more than 3.4 lakh applications for new electricity connections are pending with the administration due to unavailability of single phase, three phase and CT meters. Out of those more than 1.22 lakh applications are pending for a period of more than 1 year! All these applicants have already paid for the meters in advance. It is quite possible that a large number of these consumers are somehow tapping the electricity, which now a days is such a basic necessity, but MSEDCL is unable to bill them, leading to a huge loss.
Another shocking revelation is that as of February 2022, more than 11.33 lakh meters have been marked as “faulty” but not replaced due to unavailability of meters! All such consumers are issued “average” bills and not the actual bills, thus leading to loss of crores of rupees revenue. For example, in February 2022, more than 7.8 lakh consumers were issued “average” bills.
Consequence of such callous negligence is much more harmful than just loss of revenue. All those who paid for new meters but have not yet received them will keep blaming MSEDCL employees for the lapse, and consumers as a whole who are not aware of these facts will fall prey to government propaganda that the public sector is corrupt and inefficient and runs into loss and hence needs to be privatised to safeguard people’s interests.
Electricity workers all over the country have repeatedly pointed out how various state governments have deliberately crippled the state electricity generation, transmission and distribution companies, by not providing funds for regular maintenance, for replacement of very old and inefficient equipment like transformers, cables, poles etc. The letter mentioned above describes one more such attempt to cripple a state distribution company.
Similar examples have been quoted by workers of other public sector enterprises. Railway workers have pointed out that railway track of more than 11 thousand km has not been renewed, old machinery in many railway workshops has not been replaced, new machinery in railway factories has been kept idle while components are being outsourced, etc. Workers from almost all the sectors have repeatedly pointed out that tens of thousands of vacancies have not been filled up over the last many years which not only leads to tremendous increase in work load of the current workforce but also leads to deterioration of service to customers, thus creating a fertile ground for creating a justification for privatisation.
As Kamgar Ekta Committee we feel that, just like the letter quoted in this article, workers from all sectors should take up a campaign to expose all such anti- consumer actions by managements of PSEs, and such campaigns should be taken to consumers. Such actions will definitely help us to multiply the support of consumers for our struggle against privatisation.