12 – 04 – 2022
No. 21-2022/FOCUS -April 2022
FOCUS – APRIL 2022
PRIVATIZATION OF POWER DEPARTMENT OF UNION TERRITORIES
At the beginning of the year, steps are being taken arbitrarily for privatization of electricity in Union Territories. Keep in mind that what is happening in Union Territories today will happen in other states tomorrow.
On the instructions of the Central Government, the process of privatization of electricity distribution is being carried out arbitrarily in the Union Territories of Chandigarh, Puducherry, Dadra Nagar Haveli, Daman Diu and Lakshadweep. In another Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the process of merging the state transmission utility of electricity with Power Grid Corporation to form a new joint venture company and later handing it over to a private company was put on hold after the successful strike of J&K Power Employees & Engineers. In December 2021 the power workers and engineers of Jammu and Kashmir bravely demonstrated their steely unity by holding a complete strike and putting an end to this deadly process.
In the month of January, the Central Government approved the privatization of electricity of Dadra Nagar Haveli Daman Diu by holding a cabinet meeting. Unfortunately the number of electricity workers in Dadra Nagar Haveli is very less and there is no strong union. As a result, power distribution of Dadra Nagar Haveli Daman Diu has been handed over to the Ahmedabad company Torrent Power with effect from 1st April 2022. Keep in mind Dadra Nagar Haveli’s line losses are only 3.2% and it is a huge profit making area from power distribution point of view. Here Torrent Power has been given ownership by selling 51% of the equity.
Electricity workers in Chandigarh continue their fight with bravery. On 1 February, the electricity workers of Chandigarh showed their solidarity by going on strike. In the month of February, the electricity workers of Chandigarh gave a notice of 3 days strike and the strike started from the night of 22nd. It was a historic strike. Chandigarh’s electricity system completely collapsed due to the workers’ strike. There was darkness all over Chandigarh including PGI. Power supply in Chandigarh was started in the areas of some important hospitals including PGI at 4:00 am on the 23rd by the administration after putting pressure on the electricity employees. The employees started the electricity supply in the larger interest of the public, but at the same time the Union Territory Administration of Chandigarh also started the disgusting action of suppressing the employees. An FIR has been registered against about 150 employees and efforts are being made to intimidate the employees in other ways. The morale of the employees is very high. Meanwhile, the matter reached the High Court of Punjab and Haryana and the administration of Chandigarh Union Territory had to give in writing to the employees on February 23 that no further process of privatization would be carried out till the hearing in the High Court. On March 10, the Chandigarh High Court took cognizance of this and posted the date of next hearing to March 28. On March 28 also, it was again mentioned in the High Court that till the next hearing, the administration will not proceed with the process of privatization as per its promise.
Meanwhile, on March 19, the Northern Region Conference of the National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers was held in Chandigarh. The power workers of Chandigarh were strongly supported in the conference and the following was resolved in conference.
- To withdraw black law ESMA imposed in Chandigarh upon all democratic movement of electricity employees
- To withdraw all FIR upon baseless charges framed against the electricity workers of Chandigarh resorted to strike, after all other forms of protests through six months were not paid any heed to by the administration.
- To restore service of all 17 workers engaged through contractors for a long time in the perennial nature of jobs under the power department of Chandigarh.
- To withdraw all sorts of victimisation in the form of Show cause, Chargesheet, chargesheet and eviction from job.
- To implement revised scales of pay for all employees and engineers with retrospective effect, as par convention keeping parity with the employees of Punjab State Power Corpn. Ltd.
- To resume leave rights of the Chandigarh electricity employees with immediate effect.
- To Restore industrial peace and harmony in Chandigarh Power department through declaration of annulment of privatisation plan to ensure supply of quality power with cheapest and exemplary rate of tariff for the Chandigarh consumers.
The matter of privatization of Chandigarh is quite different from that of other Union Territories. Where 51% equity is being sold in other Union Territories, it has been decided to sell 100% equity in Chandigarh to a Kolkata based company. Chandigarh also has line losses of only 9.2%, turnover of around Rs 1000 cr and profit of Rs 300 cr per annum. Electricity rates have not been increased by a single paisa for the last 5 years, yet there is profit. Keep in mind that the electricity tariff of Chandigarh is the lowest in Northern India. In such a situation, the question arises: why privatization of Chandigarh?
There is one more question. Right now, in an RTI reply, on March 29, the Central Government has written informing that the standard bidding documents have not been finalized yet. In such a situation, the question arises that when the standard bidding document is not final, then on which basis privatization of electricity distribution of union territories is being done. This is a sheer scam, totally illegal. And the need of the hour is to show unity and solidarity at the national level against the way electricity is being privatized in the Union Territories, especially in Chandigarh.
Congratulations & Revolutionary Greetings to Power Employees & Engineers of Puducherry for forcing the Govt not to go ahead for Privatization of Puducherry Electricity Department.
Long discussions were held with CM Nagaswamy & Power Minister in the Chief Minister’s Chamber on Feb 02. CM demanded agreements of UP and J&K regarding withdrawal of Govt decisions on privatization. I said I can give it just now from my mobile. The Power Minister told CM that he has got both the agreements and briefed CM about it. After this CM categorically said that although the Central Govt is pressurising to go ahead for privatization but our Cabinet has not taken any decision regarding privatization. CM further said that his Govt will send all feedback of Power Employees & other stakeholders to Central Govt and no further step will be taken for privatization without discussing the issue with employees. The Power Minister announced this decision publicly in Press along with me and other employee leaders.
This was a Historic Day for Power Employees & Engineers. Salutations to Electricity Employees & Engineers Action Committee against Privatization and their prime office bearers for exhibiting a great show of Unity & Strength.
STRUGGLE AGAINST PRIVATIZATION OF SDSTPS IN ANDHRA PRADESH
Struggle against handing over O&M of the Sri Damodaram Sanjeevaiah Thermal Power Station (SDSTPS) to a private company has been continuing for more than two months. It is a serious matter of concern that the State Government is considering a chosen private company to run the power station on a long-term basis, for no justifiable reason. From the technical reviews available from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), SDSTPS has been operating on par with comparable units anywhere else in the country. The three 800 MW units at SDSTPS are among the first super critical technology units supplied by BHEL in its effort to indigenise the technology for the higher unit size. After APGENCO has made such a crucial investment, it is unacceptable that APGENCO/ AP Power Development Company Ltd (APPDCL) should be forced to give away that plant to a private company.
APGENCO is one among the best generation companies in India, with its highly competent human resources and it stands to no reason that its station should be summarily handed over to a private company, whose track record in comparison with APGENCO is certainly no better and which belongs to a group that already stands heavily indebted to the PSU banks.
SUCCESSFUL STRUGGLE IN OTHER STATES
During this period, electricity workers in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh fought a great fight to solve their problems. In Maharashtra, on March 10, more than 25,000 electricity workers took out a march and held a massive protest meeting at the historic Azad Maidan in Mumbai, adding a new chapter in the history of the struggle of electricity workers. On March 28 and 29, the electricity workers of Maharashtra shook the Government’s heart by going on a complete strike. Power generation came to a standstill in many generating stations. More than 9500 MW of electricity had to be bought from the Energy Exchange to maintain supply. Despite this, there was a huge power crisis in entire Maharashtra including Mumbai. Ultimately the government had to bow down and the Energy Minister had to hold talks to the power workers. Apart from other demands of the power workers, the Energy Minister clearly said that there will be no privatization in the power sector in Maharashtra. This is a great success.
In Uttar Pradesh, the power engineers and junior engineers exhibited great unity despite all the restrictions e.g. ESMA, Management Disaster Act, Pandemic Act etc. in protest against the authoritarian approach of management of energy corporations. On April 4, 5 and 6, the electricity engineers were about to go on mass casual leave. Earlier on April 2, the new Energy Minister Arvind Kumar Sharma held talks with the power engineers and was categorically assured of addressing the issues.
In this way, in the first 3 months of the year, electricity workers in different provinces have written stories of struggle and success. Puducherry, Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh & Andhra Pradesh. However, there was no agenda for the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2021 in the budget session of Parliament which is now over. But this process is not over yet. If the Union Territories are being privatized today without any amendment, without any standard bidding document, then it is a clear message that tomorrow the same is going to happen in the States. Therefore, in the first 3 months of the year 2022, the struggle and success that the electricity employees have written will have to be maintained.
Long Live Power Engineers UNITY !
Inquilab Zindabad !!