By G Bhave, Joint Secretary, Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC)
Going back on its promise to farmers after their over one year long heroic struggle and in spite of the strong and steadfast opposition of the electricity workers as well as many consumer organisations, the Central Government intends to pass the Electricity Amendment Bill 2022 (EAB 2022). This Bill, if passed, will be a big attack on farmers, workers as well as consumers.
One of the stated objectives of the EAB 2022 is to bring in competition by introducing private players in the electricity distribution sector so that the state owned DISCOMs (electricity distribution companies) become more efficient. One of the reasons cited for their inefficiency is that they have large outstanding dues as electrify workers do not put in the required effort to collect them.
As we shall see, this allegation against the workers and the DISCOMs is totally false.
State governments are committed to reimburse the DISCOMs for the electricity supplied by them at subsidised rates to various sections of society as per their policies. Outstanding payments to the DISCOMs on this count amount to Rs.76,337 crore. In addition to this, as of 31st March 2022, unpaid bills of various government departments, municipal corporations and Zilla Parishads, etc. add up to Rs.62,931 crore. These are for electricity supplied to various state government and municipal enterprises, road lighting etc.
If we add up these figures, we see that government-owned DISCOMs are in financial distress because various state governments owe them about Rs.1.4 lakh crore!
Employees of various DISCOMS have absolutely no control or authority to get these payments. In fact, if the state governments release these payments then the DISCOMS would be able to clear their dues of approximately Rs.1.1 lakh crore to power generating companies (GENCOs) and would still be left with surplus of around 25,000 crore rupees!
These figures were given in a presentation at the National Conclave of Chief Secretaries presided over by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June 2022. The presentation reportedly flagged these two – the unpaid subsidy receivables and government department bills as the “prime cause of the continuing difficulties in the power sector”.
It is thus very clear that the Central Government and various state governments know very well that it is their policies which are pushing otherwise efficient DISCOMs into financial distress, but they have been falsely blaming workers and DISCOMs for this!
Through various articles and reports on this website we have repeatedly highlighted this fact. We have put up many articles and interviews of leaders of various organizations of power sector employees highlighting these issues.
There are many such examples from other sectors as well. For instance, a few months ago when the employees of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC, popularly called as ST) were waging their heroic struggle for their various demands, various politicians and government officials spread the false propaganda that inefficient workers of the MSRTC are causing mounting losses. Workers’ unions immediately rebutted this false accusation and declared that thousands of crores are yet to be paid by the Maharashtra state government to the MSRTC as reimbursement for various subsidies!
The real challenge in front of all of us is –
How do we enlighten the general public about this reality?
How do we lay bare the lies spread 24 hours against us workers in various capitalist media and by various politicians and officials?
Are we ready to take up this challenge, or do we let them paint us in black?
These are the questions which each one of us needs to ponder over!