Other States

Mamata flays draft Electricity Bill, seeks Opposition support

It goes against the spirit of cooperative federalism, she says

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee has written to the Chief Ministers of the States ruled by the Congress and other Opposition parties over the draft Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

Sources said she had sent copies of her letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Chief Ministers of Punjab, Puducherry, Kerala, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. She had also written to DMK president M.K. Stalin and JD(S) leader H.D. Deve Gowda.

She called the draft Bill a violation of “the spirit of co-operative federalism” and accused the Centre of failure to consult the States on the Bill since electricity is on the Concurrent List.

One of the sweeping changes proposed in the Bill is an end to subsidies. All consumers, including farmers, will have to pay the tariff, and the subsidy will be sent to them through direct benefit transfer.

Ms. Banerjee argued in her letter that this would mean people would have to pay a huge sum towards electricity charges, while receiving support through direct benefit transfer later. This would result in defaults leading to penalties and disconnection, she said. “As the public at large are still to benefit from 100% financial inclusion, the success of direct benefit transfer is itself a big grey area ... the subsidy through the tariff mechanism should continue as the government has social obligations,” she wrote.

The draft “divests” the States of their power to fix tariff and hands over the task to a Central government-appointed authority. This is discriminatory, since the tariff can be tweaked according to the whims and fancies of the Central government, she said. She also criticised the provision that makes it compulsory for the State power companies to buy a minimum percentage of renewable energy fixed by the Centre. This would be detrimental to the cash- strapped power firms, she said.

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Printable version | Jul 8, 2020 5:09:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/mamata-flays-draft-electricity-bill-seeks-opposition-support/article31828145.ece

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