Arvind Kejriwal writes to non-BJP CMs, seeks support against Electricity Bill amendments
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday wrote to chief ministers of 11 states that are not ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seeking their support in his stand against the proposed amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003. Kejriwal said he will also travel to these states to build a consensus to stall the amendments.
The electricity (amendment) bill, 2014, was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2014. It was then referred to the standing committee on energy, and after its recommendations, consultations were held with all states. The Centre had sent the proposed amendments to the states for their feedback on September 7.
According to the draft amendments, the Centre wants to give consumers a wider choice by promoting competition in the power distribution sector and addressing contracting issues with medium- and long-term power purchase agreements. It will allow consumers to buy electricity from a power firm of their choice.
Alleging that the changes would lead to an immediate and steep hike in electricity tariffs, Kejriwal asked the CMs to give the “draconian” proposal wide publicity and make people aware of how it will hit ordinary folks.
“The proposed amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003 are a matter of serious concern as they concentrate all powers in the electricity sector in the hands of central government to the exclusion of state governments and it will lead to an immediate steep hike in electricity tariffs,” stated the letter, copies of which were released to the media. A draft of the proposed amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003 has also been circulated among the CMs of the 11 states for their perusal.
The letter has been sent to Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), N Chandrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh), Pinarayi Vijayan (Kerala), HD Kumaraswamy (Karnataka), V Narayanasamy (Puducherry ), Edapaddi K Palaniswami (Tamil Nadu), Lal Thanhawla (Mizoram), Amarinder Singh (Punjab), K Chandrashekhar Rao (Telangana), Naveen Patnaik (Odisha) and Pawan Chamling (Sikkim).
“It appears that the motive of the central government is to impose and hasten privatisation of electricity all over the country and to favour a few companies. By concentrating all powers with itself, the Centre will be able to do that,” the letter read.
Kejriwal has been critical of the electricity amendment bill, calling it “draconian”, because it, according to him, it would put an end to cross-subsidy, which, at present, helps keep electricity tariffs lower for small, medium and agricultural consumers by imposing higher rates on industrial and commercial consumers.
“We all need to get together to ensure the central government does not succeed in getting this amendment bill passed in Parliament,” he urged the leaders.
Responding to his allegation, the BJP, which leads the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre, said the proposed amendments to the Act, on the contrary, will help lower power tariffs.
“Kejriwal is completely rattled by the success of the BJP-led central government. He has connivance with power companies in the city,” said Delhi BJP general secretary Rajesh Bhatia.
At a public meeting in the Rohini neighbourhood, Kejriwal told the gathering he will travel to the states and meet the chief ministers to secure their backing in the fight against the proposed amendments.
“If the Modi government passes the amendments, power tariff in Delhi will become R7.5 per unit for all consumers in every category,” Kejriwal said at the meeting on Saturday.
In Delhi, power tariffs for consumers who use up to 400 units, which comprise 85% of all electricity connections in the city, will have to be hiked by over five times, he has said earlier. In the national capital, the average cost of power is R7.4 per unit.