By Ashok Kumar, Joint Secretary, Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC)
The Power Ministry has reported that during 2020-21, all the states and union territories put together spent Rs 1.32 lakh crore on providing subsidised electricity. The central government and the capitalist media have lately been referring to providing free or subsidised power as a “freebie” and want the state governments to stop it.
The Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 wants the power rate to be “cost reflective” which means that electricity rate must cover all the costs incurred in reaching the power to the consumer and the profit of 16% assured to the generating company. That means there should be no subsidised power for anyone.
The provision of subsidised power benefits crores of farmers and helps to bring down the cost of producing food grain and other crops and thus indirectly benefits the entire population of the country, including farmers. The government pays this subsidy out of people’s money only, paid to it through taxes.
If this expenditure is a “freebie” and must be stopped then why not the following given every year to benefit a few lakh capitalists be also called “freebie” and stopped?
- Nearly Rs 1 lakh crore of concessions in corporate taxes
- Nearly Rs 1.5 lakh crore of concessions in duties on import of goods
- Nearly Rs 0.7 lakh crore of concessions to exporters
Why should reduction in corporate tax rate announced in 2019-2020, not be called a “freebie” and reversed as it amounts to gifting tens of thousands of crores of additional profit to big capitalists year after year? With this reduction in corporate tax rate, while a wage earner pays income tax at the rate of 30% on any annual income above Rs 10 lakh, a corporate earning thousands of crores of profit pays tax at the rate of only 25%!!
Why should not nearly Rs 2 lakh crore being spent on “Production Linked Incentive” scheme be called a “freebie” and stopped? Why should capitalists be given incentive to produce more and earn more profit?
The concessions and incentives given to capitalists are justified by claiming that they would lead to creation of more jobs and thus benefit people. The reality is the opposite. Capitalists have been steadily replacing permanent jobs with contract workers at one-third or one-fourth of salary in larger and larger number.
Why should not nearly Rs 6 lakh crore of NPAs, mainly of big capitalists, which have been written off during the last few years be called a “freebie”? Why should they not be punished for looting public money from banks? However, when farmers demand writing off of their loans because they are forced to sell their crop below their cost of production in the absence of the guarantee for MSP, it is called a demand for a “freebie”.
All the above show that the present system and government works for big corporates and capitalists owning these corporations. Any help given to workers, farmers and other toilers is called waste of money by the capitalists and their sevaks in the government; they call and a “freebie” and insist that it must be stopped while justifying all help to capitalists claiming it is good for society. It is time to challenge this!
It is time to challenge the capitalist approach where the efficiency of every activity is evaluated based on its profitability and it is insisted that every activity must be made a source of profit. Electricity is a basic necessity of life today like food and water. We have to demand that the government makes it available to everyone everywhere in the country at affordable rates. A basic necessity like electricity cannot be allowed to become a source of profit for a few! But, this is what the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 aims to do – make electricity distribution yet another source of profit for a few at the cost of crores of toilers, in the name of improving efficiency. That is why consumers need to join power sector workers to oppose the Bill.