Arvind Kejriwal, Bhagwant Mann Slam Centre for Introducing Electricity Amendment Bill

Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann said the Bill is an attack on the constitutional rights of the states.

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New Delhi: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday termed the proposed amendments to the Electricity Act as “dangerous” and urged the Union government not to go ahead with it in haste, claiming that it will only benefit a few power distribution companies.

He said the Electricity Amendment Bill, 2022 will increase the suffering of the people as it will make problems associated with power supply and distribution more serious instead of addressing it.

The Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 to allow non-discriminatory open access to distribution networks of power suppliers was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the government on Monday amid protests by the opposition, which claimed that it seeks to take away certain rights of state governments.

“The Electricity Amendment Bill is being brought in Lok Sabha today. This law is very dangerous,” Kejriwal said in a tweet in Hindi.

“This will make the electricity problem more serious, instead of addressing it. People’s suffering will increase. Only a few companies will benefit. I appeal to the Centre to not bring this (Bill) in haste,” he added.

The AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab Sandeep Pathak said it is “very unfortunate” that the Union government is going ahead with the Bill in the Lok Sabha after reneging on its own point.

“It is an attack on the rights of the state and also an attack on the federal structure of the country,” he charged in a tweet in Hindi.

He said the state has an equal right to make laws in the matters pertaining to electricity.

“But, the Union government has not sought the opinion of any state on this Bill,” he alleged.

“The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) opposes this,” he added.

Another AAP leader, Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann also slammed the move to introduce the Bill, saying it was an attack on the constitutional rights of the states. He accused the Union government of weakening the foundations of the federal structure through such “nefarious designs”.

He said the Union government should not consider the states as puppets. “The states will not sit silently against this attempt of the government of India to dilute the federal spirit of our democracy,” Mann said in a statement issued here.

The Union government should have consulted the states before introducing any Bill related to the power sector, the Punjab chief minister said.

“Instead, this Bill is being imposed on the states, which is a direct attack on the federal structure,” he charged.

Questioning the BJP-led government’s intent, Mann said when the states provide electricity to people on their own, then why their feedback was not sought before the Bill was introduced in parliament.

Citing the example of Punjab, he said farmers in the state are being given free electricity for agriculture purposes.

“Likewise, free power supply is also being provided to domestic consumers and if the Centre is amending the Electricity Act as per its own conditions, the farmers and other sections will get a big blow as states like Punjab will not be able to continue such pro-people initiatives,” he said.

It should not repeat the mistake of implementing the three farm laws, he added.

Several organisations have raised objections to the proposed amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week, the All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) chairman Shailendra Dubey sought his intervention in the matter and appealed to him to refer the bull to the Standing Committee of Parliament for a detailed discussion with all the stakeholders.

The Bill seeks to create competition in the power distribution (retail) segment. It proposes that a discom can use another power distribution licensee’s network.

The Bill also seeks to strengthen the payment security mechanism and give more powers to regulators.

“It has become necessary to strengthen the regulatory mechanism, adjudicatory mechanism in the Act and to bring administrative reforms through improved corporate governance of distribution licensees,” states the Bill.

“The continuing as well as new challenges of sustainability of the power sector, contract enforcement, payment security mechanism, energy transition and the need to provide choice (of multiple service providers) to consumers in order to promote competition and the like, it has become necessary to make certain amendments in the Electricity Act”, it says.

The Bill seeks to amend section 42 of the Act to facilitate non-discriminatory open access to the distribution network of a distribution licensee.

Further, the Bill seeks to amend section 14 of the Act to facilitate the use of distribution networks by all licensees under provisions of non-discriminatory open access with the objective of enabling competition, enhancing the efficiency of distribution licensees for improving services and ensuring the sustainability of the power sector.

On Sunday, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 to allow for widespread consultation with all stakeholders including the states, farmers and farm unions.

He had said when the Union government decided to repeal the three farm laws on December 9, 2021, it had assured that it would not go ahead with enacting the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 without holding prior consultation with all stakeholders including the states, political parties, farmers and farmer associations.

(With PTI inputs)