Raipur, June 8, 2020 : Terming the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 as “harmful” for the poor and farmers, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has urged the Centre to put the proposed bill on hold for the time being considering the current situation in the country.

In his letter written to Union Minister of State for Power R K Singh, the chief minister said that the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 proposed by the Central Government is harmful for the lower sections of the society as the provision of cross subsidy in the proposed bill is impractical” and not in the interest of farmers and poor.

He said the farmers will face crisis regarding irrigation of crops if the subsidy on electricity given to farmers is not continued and this will affect the production of food grains and the country will face a crisis. Therefore, the present provision of giving electricity subsidy to the people and farmer of the poor section of the society is tested and according to the need of the hour. The Chief Minister said that the labourers and farmers, who have made the country self-reliant in food with their hard work, should be respected. He said it is necessary to give concession to people and farmers of poor section of the society to make them self-sufficient and competent.

Mr Baghel urged all the state governments to consult and take care of the interests of the poorer sections of the society and the common people before implementing the amendment bill prepared by the Union Ministry of Power.

The Chief Minister said that the Direct Benefit Transfer System, which is currently in force, is correct. By changing this, the poor section of the society and small and marginal farmers will be deprived of benefits. The Chief Minister said that if a farmer consumes one thousand units of electricity for irrigation of crops every month during the farming season, then he will have to pay a bill of seven to eight thousand rupees, which will be impossible for him to pay.

The Chief Minister has said that the proposed amendment bill could be suitable for the upper class people and consultants who sit in air-conditioned rooms, but is far from the ground reality. The implementation of this amendment bill will create many problems before the country. This will harm poor farmers and power companies and common people.

Crop irrigation will be affected due to lack of electricity to farmers at a subsidized rate. Food grains productivity will decline, due to which the food crisis will be created in front of the country.

The Chief Minister said the reduction of the rights of the State Governments and the appointment of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission under the union government through this amendment is contrary to the system of federal structure. The bill provides only advice to states regarding the formation of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, the consent of the state is not necessary in relation to the appointment. This provision is a clear violation of the powers of the State Government.

The Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 provides for the promotion of privatization in the field of electricity. Under this, there is also a provision for the appointment of sub licensees and franchisees. This provision is against the policy of checks and balances as sub-licensees and franchisees are not obliged to take licenses from the regulatory commission. From this it is clear that it is also contrary to the principle of right and duty.

Describing the power distribution system as the lifeline of the general public, the Chief Minister said that it will not be appropriate in any case to entrust it to private companies. This amendment bill promotes capitalism and allows private companies to take possession of the Electricity Board.

The Chief Minister has said that this amendment bill proposes the formation of a Centralized Electrical Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA). He has also mentioned in detail the decision given in connection with the appeal filed in the Supreme Court in this regard. He has said that the instructions of the Supreme Court have been followed throughout the country. He has said that in view of the decision of the Supreme Court, the formation of Centralized Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA) is justified.

If this is done, the State Electricity Regulatory Commission will become devoid of authority.

This amendment proposes the formation of a Centralized Electrical Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA). Electricity regulators are fully capable of approving contracts to buy electricity and resolving disputes that occur. It is to be noted that the Supreme Court has decided on 12 April 2018 in Civil Appeal Number 14697 of 2015 that ERCS has taken cognizance of the roles and subsidiary responsibilities and directed for the appointment of a legal member in all the Electricity Regulatory Commissions.

The Supreme Court directive has already been followed all over India. When the Supreme Court of India has already looked into the issue and settled it, there is no justification for the formation of a new body. In relation to the tariff policy, the proposal actually dehumanizes the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, as well as this federal structure, which respects the demographic and economic diversity of states.

The proposed amendment also empowers the central government to preserve renewable and hydroelectric procurement obligations. Different states of the country have different resources. In view of this, it will not be appropriate to implement it for the whole country.