Report by correspondent of Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC)
Over the past few years, a bitter struggle is going on in our country in the electricity sector. As we write this, a valiant struggle is going on in Puducherry, where workers are holding on against all attempts to privatise electricity distribution despite all sorts of attacks being unleashed by them by governments at the centre and in the Union Territory.
On the one side are the big monopolies, particularly those that are interested in this sector, along with the central and other governments that serve them. This side is bent on privatising this sector so that they can extract the maximum profit from it at the cost of the people and workers. On the other side are the brave and resolute workers who are resisting them.
This is basically a clash of two mutually opposing world views. While the monopolies care only about maximising their profit, the workers insist that it is the duty of the government to take care of the basic necessities of people like water, food, housing, health, education, and so on. In this case it is electricity, without which it is impossible to lead a dignified life. People’s money (that the government collects by way of indirect and direct taxes) should be used for people’s welfare.
Background of the fresh attack being planned:
- The electricity supply of practically the whole of Mumbai already privatised.
Adani and Tata are the distributors.
Mumbai has the highest rates of electricity in the country.
- Monopolies’ plans to take over electricity distribution in 16 big cities in the state were thwarted by the united fight of electricity workers.
- The Electricity Amendment Bill 2022 (EAB 2022) could not be hustled through the parliament as the government wanted to.
The unity of electric workers across the country has earned them a respite. The EAB 2022 has been referred to the Standing Committee.
- Navi Mumbai and surrounding areas generate handsome revenue for Mahavitaran.
- There are over thirty data centres, with tens more coming up, all of which require large amounts of electricity.
- New Mumbai International Airport is coming up in this area. This will lead to tremendous development of offices, commercial complexes as well as high rise housing complexes.
Expansion plans of Adani Electricity Mumbai Ltd.
Without waiting for the EAB 2022, Adani has used the provisions of the Electricity Act 2003 to submit an application a few days back to the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) for a licence for parallel electricity distribution in the areas of Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation and surroundings. As per this Act, those with adequate capital and satisfy some other requirements can be granted permission.
This attack needs to be defeated by the workers and consumers together. It is obvious that it is a first step towards privatisation of the entire profitable market. Big, high profit yielding establishments will be taken over by the private player, small consumers left for the MSEDCL (Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd., Mahavitaran) which will in due course turn sick.
The warning bell has also been sounded for consumers in other big cities like Pune, Aurangabad and Nagpur, which are bound to be the next targets.
The electricity workers and their unions and federations are gearing up for the fight and for consumer awareness campaigns in order to build a strong workers-user unity.