Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on August 8 said the Centre introducing the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 in Parliament was an attack on the Constitutional rights of the States.
He accused the Union government of “weakening” the foundations of the federal structure through “such nefarious designs”.
The Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 to allow non-discriminatory open access to distribution networks of power suppliers was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Centre on Monday amid protests by the Opposition, which claimed that it seeks to take away certain rights of State governments.
Mr. Mann said it was another attempt of the Central government to “undermine” the authority of the States. He said the Centre should not consider the States as puppets. The States will not sit silently against this attempt of the government of India to “dilute the federal spirit of our democracy,” Mr. Mann said in a statement issued in Chandigarh.
He said the States will fight from the road to Parliament to protect their rights. The Union government should have consulted the States before introducing any Bill related to the power sector, the Punjab Chief Minister said.
“Instead, this Bill is being imposed on the States, which is a direct attack on the federal structure,” he charged. Questioning the Centre's intent, Mr. Mann said when the States provide electricity to people on their own, then why their feedback was not sought while introducing the Bill in Parliament.
Citing the example of Punjab, he said farmers in the State are being given free electricity for agriculture purposes.
“Likewise, free power supply is also being provided to domestic consumers and if the Centre is amending the Electricity Act as per its own conditions, the farmers and other sections will get a big blow as States such as Punjab will not be able to continue such pro-people initiatives,” he said. Mr. Mann said the Centre should “desist from playing with fire”.
It should not repeat the previous “mistake” of implementing the three “draconian” agricultural laws, he added. Mr. Mann asked the Union government to reconsider its move as the people of the country will never tolerate such “unilateral” decisions.
He demanded that the Central government should take feedback from the States before enacting any law in the power sector.
On Sunday, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 to allow for widespread consultation with all stakeholders including the States, farmers and farm unions.
He had said when the Central government decided to repeal the three farm laws on December 9, 2021, it had assured that it would not go ahead with enacting the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 without holding prior consultation with all stakeholders including the States, political parties, farmers and farmer associations.