Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board Employees Union has vehemently opposed the draft Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020 and has written a memorandum to the Chief Minister Himachal Pradesh urging him to oppose the draft Bill as it is against the interest of country’s people. The Union has alleged that the draft Bill was notified unethically taking advantage of countrywide lockdown. The MoP has for long been trying to amend the Electricity Act, 2003. But its attempts at amending this piece of legislation have been facing stiff resistance from the National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE) and most of the state governments have also been vetoing such attempts. Kuldeep Singh Kharwara, President of the union has said that it would fight the draft bill both ‘tooth and nail’.
It needs mention that the Union Ministry of Power (MoP) notified the draft Bill on 17th April, 2020, initially giving the stakeholders only 21 days time to submit their comments, objections etc, on it. But after strong resistance from electricity employees and engineers the Union Ministry had to extend the time for the purpose till 5th June, 2020.
The Bill mainly aims at privatizing the state run power distribution companies (DISCOMs) and abolishing cross subsidy in tariff. This will result hike in power tariff, making power consumption unaffordable for the low and lower income group consumers. Besides, the draft Bill has sought to create an Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority with the design to dilute the powers of the state and Central Electricity Authority. On top of all the proposals the draft Bill has sought curtail the powers of the state governments, going against the very essence of the Indian constitution said the union.
Himachal Pradesh having different geographical conditions, there are huge variations in electricity supply cost per unit in rural areas and urban areas. Presently, higher supply cost of rural area is being met out by cross subsidizing the same with industrial consumers. As per proposed amendment cross subsidization will be stopped and it would lead to a “steep hike” in power bills for rural/tribal areas consumers of the state. Besides, there will be cherry picking revenue viable areas will be picked up by the private player and rural areas will left with HPSEBL. In such a situation it would be difficult to HPSEBL to disburse pension to its more than 25000 pensioners. Union has appealed to the people of the state, as they are the most sufferers, to resist the draft Bill in the greater interest of the country.
On the call of National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE) electricity employees and engineers will bear black badges on 1st June, 2020 against these proposed anti consumers and abut amendments.