Soon after the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 was introduced in Parliament on Monday, protests started in Punjab, especially by farmers’ unions.
All the farmers’ unions in Punjab which had protested against the now-repealed farm laws at Delhi borders last year said that the Centre had assured the farmers then that it would not table the Bill in Parliament without holding prior consultation with all the stakeholders, including the kisan unions.
“It was given to us in writing,” said Dr Darshan Pal, coordination committee member of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM).
“We should protest against this bill as we did against those black laws (farm laws). Every village and mohalla should protest by burning the copies of the bill,” he added.
The Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 – which aims to empower regulators and encourage competition in the sector, among others – was introduced in the Lower House by the Centre on Monday amid protests by the opposition, which claimed that it seeks to take away certain rights of state governments.
Members of BKU Dakaunda in Barnala and Mehal Kalan areas protested by taking out a march and by burning copies of the bill. While members of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) burned effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Amritsar, members of Kirti Kisan Union took out motorcycle marches in Moga, Ferozepur and Faridkot, among other districts.
KMSC general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher said, “Though the bill has been sent to the parliamentary panel on energy for discussion, now we need to see the role of opposition in Parliament. We request the opposition not to boycott any session but instead protest this bill in Parliament tooth and nail so that it is not passed. In Rajya Sabha, the ruling party is not having majority, so here comes the role of the opposition. While we welcome the statement of Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann against the bill, now AAP’s Rajya Sabha members must take it further by protesting the bill in the Upper House. Not just farmers, this bill is going to affect all and sundry.”
It may be noted that Punjab farmers get free power for agriculture sector and hence they apprehend that this may be taken off.
BKU Ugrahan general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said, “The Centre has presented this bill in the same way as it had presented the farm laws. We will appeal to SKM to call an emergency meeting of the Morcha to discuss this issue and how to go about it.”
Dr Darshan Pal said, “The Centre has betrayed us as this was one of the major demands during the kisan agitation at Delhi borders.”
BKU Dakaunda senior vice-president Manjeet Singh Dhaner said, “We burned copies of the electricity amendment bill in Mehal Kalan and Barnala constituencies of Barnala district. The Centre had repealed the farm laws on November 19, 2021, but we lifted our dharna only on December 9, 2021, after the central government gave it in writing that an MSP committee involving SKM members will be formed and electricity amendment bill will not be presented in Parliament without talking to all stakeholders concerned, among other demands. While in the MSP committee, the Centre included all pro-government people and invited only three SKM members, the electricity amendment bill was tabled in Parliament without discussing it with anyone.”
Kirti Kisan Union general secretary Rajinder Singh Deep Singh Wala said, “The Centre has betrayed us both on MSP committee and electricity amendment bill.”
BKU (Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal said, “The electricity bill promotes privatisation. We were against it while protesting the farm laws. The Centre has cheated us by
presenting the bill in Parliament. We will strongly protest against it.”
Ravneet Singh Brar, spokesperson of Sanyukt Samaj Morcha (SSM), a political party floated by farmers to contest the Vidhan Sabha polls, said, “The electricity bill, if passed, will make power costlier, will end subsidies for farmers and the poor. We will oppose it tooth and nail.”