The Opposition parties are gearing up for a united move against the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, which has been referred to the Energy Standing Committee of Parliament. While the Opposition members in the Standing Committee are likely to press their demand that Parliament should not consider “an anti-federal, anti-Constitution” Bill, the Opposition-ruled States will consult each other to frame a united strategy against the Bill.
Kerala Electricity Minister K Krishnankutty told The Hindu that the State is preparing a detailed letter to the Centre against the Bill. “The Kerala Assembly had passed a resolution against a draft of the Bill circulated by the Centre in 2021. This Bill, introduced in Lok Sabha, looks more problematic if we consider the rights of the States. We are preparing a clause-by-clause criticism of this Bill. This will be sent to the Union Power Ministry and to all States. We will hold discussions with like-minded States to evolve a joint strategy,” the senior politician said.
In the Standing Committee too, the Opposition is trying to make a joint effort. The panel is headed by JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh. An Opposition member in the panel said the Centre has “very deceitfully” taken the control of generation and distribution of power through the amendments. “According to the amendments sought, the State governments will be bound to act on the directions of Centre. These amendments seek to provide that the mandate of the Centre will be binding on the States. The amendments, therefore, will have severe repercussions for the federal structure of the country,” the member said.
Opposition-ruled States are likely to challenge the Constitutional validity of the amendments both in Supreme Court and the Standing Committee. “There is an inherent problem with this legislation in that it is anti-Constitutional. We have demanded that wider consultation among all stakeholders, including all States, is necessary and till that happens the Bill should not be allowed to come into force,” the member said.
CPI(M) MP and former Director of Kerala State Electricity Board Dr. V Sivadasan said the Bill seeks to centralise almost all functions of the distribution companies as well as the State Regulatory Commissions and changes the character of the electricity supply industry and the federal structure of Constitution. He said the emphasis on “choice to consumers” in the Bill is highly misleading because in the country the number of consumers who do not pay the “cost to serve” is very large.
“For example, almost 82% of the domestic consumers do not pay the cost to serve and almost all the agricultural consumers do not pay the cost to serve. How can competition be introduced in such a market without privatising the profits and nationalising the losses? There can be no comparison between mobile phones and electricity distribution. Mobile is a wireless system, and electricity distribution is a wired system. In the case of mobile phones all consumers pay the cost to serve unlike electrical distribution,” Dr. Sivadasan said.