West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has expressed outrage over the draft Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020, describing it as “inhuman” and an attempt by the Centre to “destroy” the country’s federal structure.
In a strongly-worded letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Banerjee said the move by the Centre to amend the Electricity Act, 2003 was “completely unjustified” amid the socio-economic crisis brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel constrained to inform that the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020 has been drafted without any consultation with the states, despite the fact that ‘electricity’ as a subject is on the Concurrent List. This is a clear and blatant violation of the constitutional provisions, the spirit of cooperative federalism and our democratic values.
“The government of India should have held consultations with the states before the bill entered the legislative process,” Banerjee said in the letter sent to the prime minister on Friday, a copy of which is available with PTI.
She also expressed concern over the proposed bill having an adverse impact on consumers in terms of increased electricity tariff.
“At present in every matter, attempts are being made to take away the powers of the state governments. This proposed bill is yet another attempt of the centre to destroy the federal structure as enshrined in our Constitution.
“With regard to the proposed amendments, the bill is very much anti-people, anti-farmer, anti-unorganised sector, anti-consumer and more or less inhuman to the common people living in semi-urban and rural areas…as it proposes to completely end subsidies and cross-subsidies extended to consumers,” Banerjee said.
The chief minister said comments on the bill have been sought by the central government in a very hurried manner, “unfairly restricting” the scope of pre-legislative scrutiny on the part of the states and other stakeholders.
She also took exception over the proposal that the electricity tariff is to be determined by a government-appointed commission, following the mandate of a centrally-determined tariff policy, which may be “tweaked to the whims and fancies” of the Centre.
“This tariff determination by a central government-appointed authority will divest the state of its powers to the detriment of people’s interests, and will adversely affect the ability of the state to discharge the onerous responsibility of improving the lives of its common people,” Banerjee said in the letter.
The Trinamool Congress chief opposed plans of setting up the Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA) to adjudicate on matters relating to performance obligations under electricity contracts, when other regulatory bodies already exist.
“The proposed creation of the ECEA clearly indicates the ulterior motive of the central government to snatch away full powers of the states and demolish its constitutional obligations,” the chief minister said.