CHENNAI: Strongly opposing the proposed amendments to the Electricity Act, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Saturday said certain amendments would take away the powers of the state government and urged the Centre to keep them in abeyance till issues relating to it are thoroughly discussed with the states after the pandemic subsides.
“All states are currently preoccupied with fighting the coronavirus pandemic and will, therefore, require some time to give their detailed response to the proposed amendments. At the same time any hasty amendments to the Electricity Act may create hardship to the state power utilities, which are going through a severe financial crisis because of the present pandemic,” the Chief Minister said in his letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Palaniswami said since some of the provisions of the draft bill were likely to put the general public to hardship, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis, this might not be an appropriate time to bring in such sweeping amendments to the Electricity Act.
The Chief Minister underscored that it had been the consistent policy of his government that farmers should receive free power and hence it should be left to the states to decide the mode of payment of such a subsidy. He also pointed out that the proposed amendments require detailed consultations with the state governments and other stakeholders.
Stating that certain amendments would have a direct bearing on the independent functioning of the power sector in Tamil Nadu, Palaniswami said, "The Amendment Bill takes away certain powers of the state government and seeks to bring significant changes in the existing Electricity Act, such as separating carriage and content in the distribution sector, which would make the power utilities in the public sector totally unviable."
He also pointed out that the draft bill seeks to privatise not just the supply of power to the end consumer through franchisees but also the entire distribution network, which would be highly detrimental to the state utilities and against the public interest.
“Despite our strong reservations, the new draft Bill continues to have provisions for the DBT of subsidy provided to consumers, particularly in the agricultural and domestic sector. There would be serious difficulties in implementing DBT in the electricity sector and this would work against the interests of our farmers and domestic consumers,” the Chief Minister pointed out.
The draft bill also seeks to take away the power of the state government in deciding the constitution of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, which is against the federal principles of the Constitution, he said. While retaining the same provisions, it is also proposed to set up a parallel authority, namely Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority, at the central level to handle all contractual issues, which was hitherto dealt with by the Central and State Electricity Regulatory Commissions. “This would unnecessarily dilute the authority of the Electricity Regulatory Commissions and needs to be deleted,” the Chief Minister added.