New Delhi, August 8
The contentious Electricity Amendment Bill-2022 that enables the entry of private companies in the power distribution landscape was on Monday introduced in the Lok Sabha amid stiff opposition by a group of parties, and was referred to the parliamentary standing committee on energy for wider consultations.
The Congress, Left parties, TMC and DMK voiced strong opposition to the introduction of the Bill which, they said, violated the federal principles of the Constitution, permitted indiscriminate privatisation of the power sector and sidestepped consultations with states even though electricity is on the concurrent list.
Power minister RK Singh accused the opposition parties of false propaganda on the bill with an aim to "mislead the people".
Noting that the government had already made a reference for the bill to be sent to the parliamentary panel where further debates could take place, Singh said, "This bill does not cut any current subsidies being given to farmers. Free power to farmers will continue. There is no provision in this bill to stop subsidies. So far as the opposition’s objection to multiple licences in one place is there, this provision exists even in the parent law of 2003. They (opposition parties) are making false statements to mislead people. We have consulted all states and stakeholders. This is a pro-people and a pro-farmers bill."
The Bill was brought to Lok Sabha close on the heels of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha warning the government against the introduction.
The SKM in a recent statement said withdrawal of the bill was one of the principal demands of the year-long farmers’ movement. “On December 9, 2021, the government in a letter to the SKM said that on the provisions in the Electricity Amendment Bill which affect farmers, there will be a discussion with all stakeholders. No discussions have taken place in the past eight months and introduction of this bill would amount to a stark betrayal of the farmers by the government."
The Congress on Monday flagged the promise the Centre had made to the SKM.
Opposing the introduction of the Bill, Congress Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “You had given a written assurance to the SKM that you would not bring this bill without discussions. This is an anti-farmer bill."
Congress's Manish Tewari said the amendment bill frustrated the objects of the parent act. "This bill seeks to amend the Constitution through a statute and is beyond the legislative competence of the House. The amendment substantially weakens the power of states by allowing multiple private agencies to distribute power in one place. This paves the way for privatisation of profits and nationalisation of losses and usurps the rights of states. The Centre has been empowered to issue licences to multi-state distribution companies with no consultation with the states. The Bill also says that if any state commission is unable to perform its tasks, the Centre can in consultation with states (not the consent of states) ask another state agency to discharge the tasks," Tewari said.
Earlier, NK Premchandran of the RSP opposed the bill saying it allowed indiscriminate privatisation, went against the constitutional structure of federalism and also against the tenets prescribed to legislate on subjects that are in the concurrent list. The BJD was the only party that struck a conciliatory note on the legislation. Party MP Pinaki Mishra during the heated debate at the introduction stage said, "The bill is being referred to a standing committee. We can discuss it there."
Earlier, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla told members not to make political speeches and only talk on whether the government had the power to bring the law. Minister RK Singh, while allaying opposition’s concerns said, "This all is a waste of time. The bill can be debated in the parliamentary committee."
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