Engineers oppose power distribution privatisation in J&K

Union government’s announcement to privatize power distribution companies (DISCOMS) in union territories including J&K has met strong opposition from engineer fraternity fearing the move will result in manifold increase in power tariffs.

The move has already faced opposition from All India Power Engineers’ Federation (AIPEF) stating that government was “misleading” the common consumers and farmers on the issue of the privatization of electricity distribution.

President, JK Electrical Engineers’ Graduate Association, Harvinder Singh said: “We will oppose tooth and nail the decision which has been taken unreasonably. It is sad that the decision has been announced amid COVID19 outbreak, which goes against the basic ethos of democracy.”

He said a major “policy decision” like this required threadbare consultations with all the stakeholders including the general public which will be at the receiving end.

“The idea of privatization has been rolled out without looking at the ground realities and it is bound to fail,” Singh said adding that power scenario and other parameters in J&K were entirely different and hence it cannot be clubbed with other union territories.

Treating the UT of J&K at par with other Union Territories on this subject “is nothing but farce” as the population as per census-2011 of J&K is 3 times the entire population of all other UTs taken together, he said.

UT of J&K has a total population of 122.67 lakh while as the population of all other UTs combined together is 36.05 lakh.

“The consumer base of UT of J&K is more than double than that of the other UTs taken together. The consumer base of UT of J&K is around 23 lakh whereas consumer base of all the UTs taken together is around 9 lakh,” he said.

“There is no comparison between UT of J&K and other UTs taken together vis-à-vis distribution network. That even the high powered Committee constituted by Union ministry of power has not recommended the privatization of power sector in UT of J&K in the first instance,” he said.

The J&K Power Engineers’ and Employees’ Coordination Committee (JKPEECC) while opposing the move has vowed to launch agitation if the government went ahead with the privatization.

AIPEF has stated that the “average cost of electricity in J&K is Rs 6.73 per unit, and under the Companies Act, the private discoms – post privatisation – would be liable to a minimum 16 per cent profit, which would push the power tariff to almost Rs 8 per unit”. “Since, the Centre has decided to do away with subsidy and wants the consumers to incur the actual cost of electricity, the common domestic consumers and even farmers will have to pay a minimum of Rs 8 per unit for the power,” they said.

Elaborating the new tariff policy, AIPEF has stated now farmers consuming 9,000 million units (MU) per year would have to pay Rs 6,000 per month, while the domestic consumers might be asked to pay Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000 per month.