Bill to privatise electricity in LS, is sent to Parliamentary panel
New Delhi: The government on Monday introduced the controversial Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 in the Lok Sabha and referred it to the parliamentary standing committee amid vociferous protests by the Opposition.
The Bill seeks the privatisation of electricity, on the lines of telecom services. It seeks to give consumers the option to choose the electricity supplier just like one can choose phone, mobile and Internet service providers.
Power minister R.K. Singh introduced the Bill and urged Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to refer it to a parliamentary standing committee for wider consultations to address the concerns raised by the Opposition parties.
Opposing the introduction of the Bill, RSP member N.K. Premachandran, Congress members Manish Tewari and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, CPI(M)’s M.A. Arif, Trinamul member Saugata Roy and DMK leader T.R. Baalu said the draft legislation was against the federal structure of the Constitution.
Premachandran said electricity was on the Concurrent List and it was the “bounden duty” of the Centre to have “effective consultations” with state governments before introducing the Bill. Tewari said the Bill sought to allow multiple private firms to provide electricity in the same area, a provision that could lead to “privatisation of profits and nationalisation of losses.” He contended that the legislation also sought to reduce the role of the Centre in the distribution of electricity.
Roy and Arif said the Bill was contrary to the assurances given by the Modi government to the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, which had laid a year-long siege to the national capital demanding the rollback of agricultural reforms and shelving of the proposed amendments to the Electricity Act.
Baalu said the Tamil Nadu government was giving free electricity to farmers for the past several years and the proposed amendments could affect “poor farmers” who receive free power.
The power minister said that the Opposition members were indulging in “false propaganda” against the Bill. “The farmers will continue to get free power. There will be no rollback of the subsidy,” Singh said amid calls for wider consultations.
”We have consulted the states and other stakeholders. This Bill is pro-people and pro-farmers,” Singh said as he introduced the bill. The Opposition members demanded a division on the motion which was rejected by the Speaker. The Opposition resorted to sloganeering for a while and then staged a walkout from the Lok Sabha.
The Bill seeks to amend Section 42 of the Electricity Act to facilitate non-discriminatory open access to the distribution network of a distribution licensee. It also seeks to amend Section 14 to facilitate usage of distribution networks by all licensees under the provisions of non-discriminatory open access with the objective of enabling competition, enhancing efficiency of distribution licensees for improving services and ensuring the sustainability of the power sector.
Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill that seeks to promote non-fossil fuel energy sources like biomass, ethanol and green hydrogen.