Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
On 8th August 2022, workers of MSEB (Maharashtra State Electricity Board) gathered in huge numbers outside their office in Thane, Wagle Estate, wearing black ribbons to demonstrate against the introduction of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 in the parliament. The leaders who addressed the meeting said that the Bill is a draconian act to deprive people of electricity at reasonable rates and is a sell out to the capitalists and it is anti-people and anti-worker.
Shri. Sanjay Thakur, General Secretary of MSEB Subordinate Engineers Union pointed out that after fight of more than a year and at the cost of 700 farmers’ lives, the Government had given a written promise that the bill will not be tabled without discussing with the all the stake holders. Now it is going back on this promise. First they divided the Electricity Board into Generation, Transmission, and Distribution Companies, so that it would facilitate the sale of each of these to capitalists. Just like in the Indian Railways where12 % of total land is being leased at Rs1/- to the capitalists, the same thing will happen in the electricity sector. Delicensing has been made easy for the capitalists as there is no need for permission from the Regulatory Board. They will cherry pick all lucrative DISCOMs (Distribution Companies) like Mumbai, Pune, and other profit making cities and the rural areas will be given to the government. Cross subsidy will be removed which will affect the farmers and the poor. The rates of the electricity will make it unaffordable to innumerable people.
He went on to add that recently the Odisha electricity DISCOM has been taken over by the Tata’s. Immediately after taking over, they made the workers sign a pay parity agreement and the wages of the workers have been reduced to 60%. Many say that Tata is a good company but the facts are different. He declared that they would oppose strongly. They would have a morcha to Delhi in November from North, South, East and West to oppose the bill.
Trupti, Joint Secretary of Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC), pointed out that privatisation has been carried out by every government from 1991.They first make the public sector enterprises sick by not investing in maintenance. Then they blame workers for being inefficient, say that the enterprises are loss making and they have to privatise them.
We workers are not fools. Capitalists do not do anything unless it is profitable for them. They are driven by the single aim of maximizing their profits. However, wherever workers have fought unitedly, overcoming barriers of union and party affiliations, and wherever they have made consumers aware and mobilized them to support their fight, they have been successful. J & K electricity workers, RINL and so on are glorious examples.
Privatisation is an agenda of the ruling capitalist class. The various parties are like their managers and they are ordered by the big capitalists to implement their agenda. Electricity is a powerful sector and the workers must realize their strength. She finished her speech with the slogan, “An attack on one is attack on all!”
The demonstration ended with militants slogans like “Electricity Amendment Bill radd karo!” (Cancel the Electricity Amendment Bill!), Sarkar ki tanashahi nahi chalegi” (The dictatorship of the government will not be tolerated!” and “Hamare hakk ladke lenge!” (We will fight and win our rights!”