West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday criticised the Centre for tabling the Electricity (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to introduce the legislation, ANI reported.
In a letter to the prime minister, Banerjee said that the Bill claims to “provide plural choices to the customer”, but will in reality allow service providers to engage in profiteering through increased tariffs.
The Electricity (Amendment) Bill seeks to establish an Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority, which will have the sole authority to decide contract-related disputes in the power sector, according to PRS Legislative Research.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons for the Bill noted that electricity tariffs should reflect the costs of supply of electricity and that cross-subsidies and surcharges levied on industrial customers should be reduced.
Banerjee, in her letter to the prime minister, noted that the government had first proposed to move the Bill last year, but had not done so. “I am stunned to hear that the Bill is coming back without any consideration for our reservations, and in fact with some graver anti-people features this time,” she wrote.
The West Bengal chief minister said that power was “too important a sector for such unilateral interferences, especially when electricity as a subject is in the Concurrent List of the Constitution of India”, PTI reported. She noted that a law on a subject on the concurrent list needs “serious prior consultation with the states”. Matters in the concurrent list comprise subjects that both the state and the Union can legislate upon.
“The Electricity Act, 2003, had struck a fine balance between the Centre and the states in the management of the power sector, while the proposed amendment strikes at the root of that federal architecture,” she said.
Criticism from other Opposition leaders
Several other Opposition leaders have also criticised the Bill in recent days. On August 5, the Kerala Assembly passed a unanimous resolution demanding that the Centre withdraw the Bill, The Hindu reported.
The resolution said that the proposed law would make cost-effective electricity inaccessible to farmers and weaker sections of the society.
Last month, Aam Aadmi Party MP Bhagwant Mann said that the Bill would take away the rights of the state governments, and endangers India’s federal structure, PTI reported. “After the three black farm laws, the Modi government is now adding to the injury of the farmers by introducing the Electricity Amendment Bill, 2021 which will eventually take away the rights of the state,” he said.