LDF govt in a fix after CPM politburo proposes scrapping smart meter project
Trade unions, including the CITU, have been advocating for the implementation of the smart meter project within the PSUs from the beginning.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the CPM politburo proposing to scrap the controversial smart meter project immediately, the LDF government in the state finds itself in a dilemma regarding its next steps.
While the politburo did not specifically mention Kerala, it expressed concerns that the smart meter project would impose a heavy burden on the poor and farmers.
Trade union leaders had approached CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury after the board and the LDF government had been indecisive about the Rs 8,200 crore smart meter project.
When the tender application for the project was opened on June 15, three private companies participated, with the lowest quote amounting to Rs 3,475.16 crore.
This would have resulted in consumers paying Rs 9,500 per smart meter.
The board planned to implement the smart meter project for the initial phase among 3.7 million consumers. However, trade unions, including the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), strongly objected to this and approached the CPM Politburo after their concerns were not addressed by the power ministry and the LDF government.
CITU national secretary Elamaram Kareem stated that the state government had no choice but to scrap the project.
“The board should have immediately scrapped the tender process citing legal issues once it realised that a smart meter would cost close to Rs 9500, when the base value set up by the board has been Rs 6000. Out of 1.35 crore power consumers in the State, around 50 lakhs are poor and cannot afford to set up this smart meter. The alternative before the LDF government is to abandon the TOTEX model (total cost of expenditure combining capital expenditure and operational expenditure) and instead go for the technology developed by C-DAC, which can be implemented by the PSUs”, said Elamaram Kareem who is also a CPM central committee member.
It should be noted that the trade unions, including the CITU, have been advocating for the implementation of the smart meter project within the PSUs from the beginning.
After the CPM Politburo meeting in New Delhi on June 24-25, they issued a statement criticising the Modi government for implementing the smart meter project with a pre-paid arrangement for electricity consumers.
“Many states have been forced to implement the scheme and thereby withdraw from the responsibility of electricity distribution and hand it over to private corporate companies for profit maximisation. This will impose an unbearable burden on the poor and the farmers. This project must be scrapped immediately”, said the Politburo statement.
CPM secretary M V Govindan told TNIE that he was not aware of Politburo’s statement against smart meters. “The Politburo might have come out with a statement in general against the Modi Government’s decision to implement the smart meter project. But we will hold talks in the coming days and decide on what can be done next”, said Govindan.
Power minister K Krishnankutty’s office told TNIE that an alternative decision has to be taken soon. “We will have to either go for retendering so that the price of the smart meter can be brought down. Or else, the TOTEX model has to be abandoned. Further talks will be held with all the stakeholders and then we will take an appropriate decision on how the smart meter project can be implemented”, said a power ministry official.