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‘Not an appropriate time’: Tamil Nadu CM writes letter to PM over new Electricity Bill

Reminding of a letter sent by the state previously, in November 2018, CM Palaniswami said that the amendment bill takes away certain powers of the state government and seeks to bring significant changes in the existing Electricity Act.

By: Express News Service | Chennai | Published: May 9, 2020 8:59:48 pm
Electricity Bill, Electricity Bill Modi, Tamil Nadu on electricity bill, palaniswami letter to Modi, Modi Coronavirus, indian express news Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. (File)

Arguing that the new Electricity (Amendment) Bill is against the rights of states, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami Saturday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to keep it in abeyance till the proposed changes are discussed with state governments.

Asserting that the proposed amendments to Electricity Act, for which the Ministry of Power has invited comments of the state governments recently, require detailed consultations, CM Palaniswami pointed out issues that have a direct bearing on the independent functioning of the power sector in the state.

Reminding of a letter sent by the state previously, in November 2018, CM Palaniswami said that the amendment bill takes away certain powers of the state government and seeks to bring significant changes in the existing Electricity Act “such as separating carriage and content in the distribution sector, which would make the power utilities in the public sector totally unviable.”

“The proposed new draft bill seeks to privatise not just the supply of power to the end consumer through franchisees but to also privatise the entire distribution network, which would be highly detrimental to the state utilities and against public interest. Further, despite our strong reservations, the new draft bill continues to have provisions for the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of subsidy provided to consumers, particularly in the agricultural and domestic sector,” the letter said.

CM Palaniswami’s further said that there would be serious difficulties in implementing DBT in the electricity sector and that it “would work against the interest of our farmers and domestic consumers.”

The letter said it has been the consistent policy of Tamil Nadu government that state’s farmers should receive free power and it should be left with the state government to decide the mode of payment of such subsidy. “I have also pointed out earlier that the proposed amendment bill seeks to take away the power of the state government in deciding the constitution of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, which is against the federal principles of the Constitution. In the draft bill, it has been noticed that not just the same provisions are being retained, but it is also proposed to set up a parallel authority, namely Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority at the Central level to handle all contractual issues, which was hitherto dealt with by the central and State Electricity Regulatory Commissions. This would unnecessarily dilute the authority of the Electricity Regulatory Commissions and needs to be deleted,” his letter said.

Reminding the prime minister that states are currently pre-occupied with fighting with the Covid-19 pandemic, the letter said states are required some time to give their detailed response to the proposed amendments. “At the same time, any hasty amendments to the Electricity Act may create hardship for the state power utilities, which are going through a severe financial crisis because of the present pandemic.”

The letter said this was “not the appropriate time to bring in such sweeping amendments to the Electricity Act.” In the circumstances, CM Palaniswami wrote, I urge you to prevail upon the Ministry of Power to put the proposed amendments to the Electricity Act in abeyance till these are thoroughly discussed with the state governments after the pandemic subsides.

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