Enthusiastic response by Maharashtra power employees and engineers to the NCCOEEE call to ‘Chalo Dilli’ to oppose Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022

 

Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent

 

On 16th November, the Aagri Koli Sanskrutik Sabhagruh, Nerul, Navi Mumbai reverberated with slogans denouncing the Central Government’s’ attempts to bulldoze the Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill 2022 (EAB2022). Hundreds of power sector workers from various districts of Maharashtra including Kolhapur, Ratnagiri, Nashik, Pune, Mumbai, Thane etc. gathered in Nerul in response to a call given by the constituent organizations of National Coordination Committee Of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE), as a preparatory step in support of its call, “Chalo Dilli!” scheduled on 23rd November.

Some of the national leaders of the NCCOEEE are more than 70 years old, but their energy is astounding and inspiring in equal measure. For the past 3 months, they have been travelling to all the states of the country. The meeting in Mumbai was the 28th, the concluding one before the grand rally on 23rd November in Delhi.

In Maharashtra 27 organizations of engineers, workers and officers of the electricity sector have come together to form a Sangharsh Samiti which has been consistently and determinedly opposing all attempts by the central and state governments to privatize the power sector.

Before the 16th November meeting they had issued a joint communique denouncing the state government’s moves to hand over distribution from Thane to Uran and in other cities to private companies, the plan to form a separate company for supplying electricity to the agriculture sector, the granting of permission to Adani Power for installing transmission lines and power stations and the plan to hand over hydroelectric power plants to private companies.

Shri Shailendra Dubey from All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF), Com. Mohan Sharma from All India Federation of Electricity Employees (AIFEE), Shri Sanjay Thakur from Subordinate Engineers’ Association (SEA), Com. Krushna Bhoyar from Maharashtra State Electricity Workers Federation (MSEWF), Shri Dattatrey Gutte from Indian Trade Union Congress (INTUC), Shri Sunil Jagtap from AIPEF, Shri Shivaji from Bahujan Abhiyante Adhikari Federation were some of the power sector leaders present on the dais.

Com. Girish, Joint Secretary of the Kamgar Ekta Committee was a special invitee on the dais as a representative of electricity consumers and all sectors opposing the privatization of public sector enterprises.

Shri Sanjay Thakur welcomed all the electricity workers gathered in the hall and gave a brief review of united struggles waged by Maharashtra electricity workers by forming a Sangharsh Samiti of 27 organizations. Due to those struggles, the Maharashtra government has been prevented from further privatization so far. He outlined the new moves of the state government as outlined in the joint communique and stressed that they should be defeated. The formation of the All India Forum Against Privatization (AIFAP) has strengthened fight against privatization across the country, he said, and stressed the urgent need to mobilize public opinion against privatization.

Shri Shailendra Dubey in his characteristic style, not only enlightened all present about the ill effects of EAB 2022, but energized each and everyone by interspersing his speech with quotations from Shahid Bhagat Singh and other patriots. Our struggle is the struggle to save India, he declared.

The Central Government has not only gone back on written promises given to crores of farmers and power sector workers as regards prior consent of all stake holders about EAB 2022, but has thrown into the dust bin all set norms which are supposed to be followed before presenting bills to the parliament.

Without any advance information the EAB 2022 was suddenly introduced in the parliament on 8th August. It was only the determined and united threat of a lightning strike by power sector workers across the country which prevented the government from passing the Bill in the parliament.

Dubey ji explained in detail about how the EAB 2022 will pass on the profitable power generation, transmission and distribution to private companies and make electricity extremely expensive. He gave details of the heroic struggles of power sector workers of Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh, Puducherry, Jammu Kashmir etc. which forced the government to back track.

History is going to be created on 23rd November he thundered. How much can they oppress us? Like the purity of our product, our strength is the purity of our struggle. Electricity has no other permanent alternative, and neither do electricity employees! Bring slogans and banners in Marathi to Delhi. India is a bouquet of cultures and languages, and all must be represented at Delhi he thundered.

 

 

 

How outrageous is this?
Further exposure of the government by electricity leaders

  • When the government says that privatization will give “choice” to consumers, like mobile SIM, they are fooling consumers! Mobile networks are wireless and there is equal tariff for all consumers. Electricity networks are wired and cost thousands of crores for building and maintenance. Further, for electricity there are different rates for different consumers and subsidies and cross-subsidies.
  • In the total cost of electricity, 85% is the cost of power purchase. Power purchase agreements (PPAs) are signed for 25 years, so they are not going to change soon. When the PPA cost will not decrease, how will rates decrease as the government claims if the EAB 2022 is passed?
  • The electricity network is flexible, not rigid. Consumers are increasing every day, so there is need for increasing capacity and building more substations. Note that this will be done by the government company. Private companies will cherry pick profit-making areas and bear only wheeling charges.
  • Chandigarh has the lowest tariff in the country and only 9.2% losses. It earns Rs. 325 crore a year in profit. It has a network worth Rs. 27000 crore. Yet, it was handed over to a Kolkata private company for Rs. 871 crore and its land was leased at Re. 1! Dadra and Nagar Haveli (which has already been privatized) has only 3.2% losses and Puducherry has 11.2% losses (all these are much below the national average).

***

Com. Girish began with slogan, “Long live worker-employee-consumer unity!” I have come here as a representative of Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) and of consumers, he declared. The All India Forum Against Privatization AIFAP was formed a year and half ago with 40 members. Today, 97 organizations are a part of AIFAP, including unions of railways, banks, coal, electricity, steel, transport, and other sectors.

AIFAP has helped to educate workers of various public sector enterprises about struggles of other public sector workers and through its regular meetings AIFAP has played an important role of strengthening the unity across public sector enterprises, he explained.

Com. Girish pointed out that Electricity workers are giving the call “Save Power Sector– Save India,” railway workers are saying “Save Indian Railways – Save India,” and bank workers are saying “Save Banks – Save India.” This means that all workers have understood that their fight is a fight to save the country. We have to explain this to consumers now. We have to end the division among workers and unite.

Since the launching the program of Globalization through Privatization and Liberalization, various governments and capitalists have systematically maligned the public sector workers. On the one hand one government after another has crippled the public sector by starving the enterprises of funds, by neglecting maintenance, by refusing their upgradation, by stopping recruitment, by increased contractualization, etc. while on the other hand telling consumers that it is the public sector workers who are responsible for deteriorating services. Thus the governments have tried to pit consumers against the workers. We must systematically demolish this false propaganda by actively going amongst the people he urged.

He congratulated the power sector workers and AIFAP since they brought forward an important point on the agenda of debate about privatization. “All the essential services are the right of all people and it is the governments’ duty to ensure those services at affordable prices, and private profit can never be the motive behind delivering these services”. By giving examples he explained that if we go amongst people and explain them patiently then people rally around us and that we can never rely on politicians and their promises. He urged all the workers to begin mobilizing public opinion against privatization of the public sector starting from their own homes by mobilizing their own kith and kin. He ended by giving slogan “An attack on one is an attack on all”!

Com. Mohan Sharma explained how all the proposed 35 amendments to 2003 Act in EAB2022 are anti-people and anti-worker. By giving examples of Madhya Pradesh, Chandigarh etc. he pointed out as to how the power sector infrastructure built with the sweat and blood of workers and lakhs of crores of government money collected as tax from the working people is being given away to private capitalists at throwaway prices. Similarly Railway infrastructure, mines etc. are being given away. If we allow this then our future generations will not pardon us! Privatization of Public Sector Enterprises and scrapping of the labour laws being done simultaneously reveals the government’s real intention of serving interests of capitalists he said. He also called upon all the workers to mobilize their families and other working people.

Com. Krushna Bhoyar pointed out that in Maharashtra, Aurangabad, Jalgaon, and Nagpur electricity distribution was handed over to capitalists, but they failed and the state government had to take it back from them. Similar experience has been there in Odisha and many other places. In spite of that governments still want to hand over distribution to private companies.

With many examples he pointed out how it is the state government power sector workers who rise to the occasion and ensure quick restoration of power even during crisis situations like floods, cyclone, pandemic etc. whereas the private companies run away.

He stressed that we should be united irrespective of union affiliation. Wherever workers and consumers have fought together, we have won he said. He congratulated all those present for sending a strong message to Maharashtra government against privatization of power sector. He ended the meeting by giving militant slogans.

The atmosphere of the whole meeting was electric and all who came were charged up to fight even more strongly.

 

 

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