Electricity amendment bill: States not consulted, Mamata Banerjee writes to PM

Electricity amendment bill: States not consulted, Mamata Banerjee writes to PM

PROTESTING AGAINST the Centre’s move to place the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in Parliament, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday alleged that states were not consulted properly regarding it. She also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to “refrain from initiation of the legislation”.

In her letter, she said that if the bill was passed, it would “hamper the interest of the common people”.

Banerjee wrote, “Power is too important a sector for such unilateral interferences, especially when ‘electricity’ as a subject is in the Concurrent List of the Constitution of India and any legislation on a subject in such a list needs serious prior consultation with the states. In the present case, there has been some tokenism of consultations, but no real exchange of views, which is antithetical to the federal structure of our polity”.

She added, “In the name of market reforms, the state will give up its commanding height, state PSUs will become sick and ailing and yet forced to serve areas where no corporate body would focus. Allowing cherry-picking to select private entities cannot be the goal of public policies, particularly in a strategic sector like power.”

The CM also said, “Such an approach would result in concentration of private profit-focused utility players in the lucrative urban-industrial segments, while poor and rural consumers would be left to be tended by public sector DISCOMS.”

The Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 seeks to propose amendments to the Electricity Act 2003. The bill has proBnposed the setting up of a National Selection Committee instead of a separate selection panel for the appointment of state electricity regulatory commissions (SERCs).

Alleging “sweeping abdication of the state’s pre-eminent role in the power sector in favour of unregulated and de-licensed private players”, Banerjee wrote, “The avowed objective of the Bill is to provide plural choices to the consumers, even while actually the Bill will finally end up in profiteering by the new service providers through enhancements in tariffs and every sector of the society will suffer due to increased tariff.”

Mamata Banerjee claimed that the bill “basically attacked the root of the federal structure of the country”. She wrote, “The reduction of the role of the state public utility bodies, the unchecked enhancement of the role of private corporate bodies, and the curtailment of the authority of the states in the power sector together imply a sinister design, whereby crony capitalism will get nourishment at the cost of the states, the public sector and the common people at large.”

Banerjee wrote, “The dilution of the role of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission and the State Distribution Companies implies a political design to demolish state bodies and domestic industries. Direct interference by the Central Government in activities involving distribution will not at all be helpful to take care of the interest of the common people and the States.”

She said, “I would like to request you to kindly refrain from the initiation of the legislation and to ensure that broad-based and transparent dialogue on the subject is opened up at the earliest.”

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