VIJAYAWADA: Expressing its reservation over certain clauses of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020, the state energy department has sent its views to the Union Ministry of Power, which sought feedback from stakeholders, including power distribution companies (discoms). Several states, including Telangana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, already opposed the Bill claiming it would infringe states’ rights.
The chief ministers of Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh, and energy minister of Maharashtra have written to those at the helm, including the Prime Minister and Union Minister for Power, asking them to drop the Bill as it is against the spirit of federalism. Along the same lines, Andhra Pradesh energy officials expressed their reservations against certain clauses, such as the adjudication powers of State
Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs) being transferred to New Delhi by proposing an Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA), direct benefit transfer (DBT) of subsidies to beneficiaries, and selection of SERC chairman and members by the central commission, among other things. Though it was initially discussed that the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) would send its views after studying the bill, the department sent it after consulting the CMO.
“Each state is different and our demographic dividend is high, so centralisation of power may do more harm than good. Who would know a state and its conditions better than the state itself? Each state has a different requirement too. Ours is an agrarian state and the industrial sector is not as big as in states like Maharashtra or Gujarat. So, we will have to offer more to the agriculture sector and take steps as per our needs.
The same was conveyed to the Union ministry,” a senior official explained. Though officials felt seeking DBT was a progressive move, Discoms should be cautious as it involves upfront payments, they said. It is also learnt that the state said the State Load Despatch Centres (SLDCs) should be allowed to act autonomously.
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“The Bill proposed giving additional functions to national load despatch centre (NLDC), which would override SLDCs. The proposed amendments are taking away powers of States and are against the federal structure of the Constitution. So, we put on record our reservations,” the official added.
It may be recalled that the State electricity department employees have been urging the government to oppose the Bill as it would be detrimental to the State Discoms, and even staged protests last month. They said experience shows that privatisation and centralisation, as proposed by the Union ministry, were not the panacea for all ills and demanded that the Union government drop the bill.