India’s Electricity Amendment Bill Faces Ire of Farmers’ Body, Power Sector Employees

Farmers whose agriculture lands had been transfered to build a solar power plant protest near the plant in Mikir Bamuni village, Nagaon district, northeastern Assam state, India, Feb. 18, 2022.Rahul Trivedi The Electricity (Amendment) Bill was introduced multiple times in the Indian parliament from 2014 onwards, but couldn’t get passed. Dropping it was one of the demands of Indian farmers during massive protests in 2020-21 against three now-repealed farm laws.India’s Electricity (Amendment) Bill presented by the government in the Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) continues to face the ire of farmers as well as power sector employees and engineers across the country.

In an interview with Sputnik, Chairman of the All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) Shailendra Dubey said “power workers protested against the bill [which was] placed in the Parliament in an undemocratic manner with a view to complete privatization of the energy sector. Power sector employees are demanding that the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 should be withdrawn in its present form.”

Dubey also said all the stakeholders, especially the common electricity consumers and power workers, should get an opportunity to submit their viewpoints on the bill.Expressing dissent over several provisions of the bill, the AIPEF chairman said: “There is provision of the Bill under which licenses will be given to more than one distribution company in the same area. The new distribution companies of the private sector will supply electricity using the public sector network and earn profit from it. How can this be justified?”He added that there is another provision in the bill under which there is an obligation for government companies to provide electricity to all categories of consumers, while private sector companies profit by giving electricity only to lucrative industrial and commercial consumers as per their wishes.“The work of maintaining the network will be with the government company and the government company will have to spend money on strengthening, operating and maintaining it. In this way private companies will earn profit by paying only some wheeling charges. As a result, government companies will become financially insolvent,” he stated.Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmer unions spearheading the massive protests in 2020-21, has demanded the complete withdrawal of the bill, as it said it was one of the demands of the farmers during the year-long agitation against the now-repealed laws.

Rishi Anand, a media representative of SKM, accused the government of betraying it’s own written assurances, since it reportedly promised a discussion with all stakeholders before placing the bill in parliament, which did not take place.

“The Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 aims to ensure entry of private companies in the electricity distribution sector and it will give extensive power to the federal government to hike electricity charges,” Anand said.Stating that the bill is anti-farmer, Anand said that it will abolish the subsidies and cross-subsidies for the farmers, while domestic rates of power will rise tremendously.

What is the Electricity Amendment Bill?

The Electricity (Amendment) Bill aims at allowing privatization of the electricity sector on lines of communication. If passed, it will offer consumers an option to choose their electricity supplier just as they do for mobile and Internet services, according to the federal government.Apart from this, it seeks to amend several sections of the Electricity Act 2003, which is opposed by power sector employees, farmers, and opposition parties.Terming the presentation of the bill in parliament undemocratic, Indian farmers held protests demanding its withdrawal.While farmers are concerned the bill will eventually lead to an end of subsidies for them, some power sector employees are concerned the bill is an attempt to privatize the distribution sector and will adversely affect them. They added that the bill will be against the interest of farmers and households.Opposition parties have criticized the bill, suggesting it goes against the federal structure and places more power in the hands of the federal government.


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