Workers including Engineers and Officers of all the four Maharashtra Government-owned electricity companies went on strike for 72 hours from 7th January ’19. In 2005 the Maharashtra government had split the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) into 4 companies in spite of severe opposition from all its employees. One of the real reasons for breaking up the MSEB was to create an artificial division amongst the electricity workers. But this strike call has once again brought all the employees together. Employees have united across various unions with different party affiliations and across different categories and grades. This strike call is a part of strike call given on All India basis by National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers.
One of the main demands raised by the National Coordination Committee is to immediately stop further process to implement the Electricity (Amendment) Act 2018. Though this Act has far reaching consequences for employees and electricity consumers across the country, the Central government has not sent the draft to unions and associations of electricity workers, nor has it presented it to citizens to get their opinion. Electricity workers say that if presented to unions and citizens then they will definitely oppose it tooth and nail due to its anti-people and pro-capitalist nature, and that is why the Central government has not involved them. The amended Act allows the separation of Distribution into “Electricity carrying” and “Electricity usage”, which will allow private players to reap profit from “electricity usage” without any infrastructure investment risks. The policy plan of the amendment also divides consumers into 2 sections. The first section comprises of Industrial, Railway, Ultra high wattage consumers i.e. consumers from whom maximum profit can be generated and this is reserved for private players, whereas the second section comprises of domestic consumers, agriculture pump connections, street lights, rural areas etc. Supply to these consumers is supposed to be at subsidized rates and hence generally considered as non – profit generating. That is why these consumers are supposed to be catered to by the government company. The Act also states that subsidy to various sectors must be completely withdrawn for all the consumers. To protect profits of private companies this act also allows them to debit various expenses like wheeling charges, etc. from consumers. This proposed Act, which is attacking one of the basic needs of the people, hence needs to be opposed tooth and nail not only by the electricity employees but also by all the working people. Mazdoor Ekta Lahar fully supports the electricity workers for taking up this cause on behalf of all the citizens of our country.
Electricity workers of Maharashtra are also demanding immediate revocation of the Letter of Intent given to private companies for electricity distribution in Mumbra, Kalwa and Malegaon. They are also demanding that natural resources related with power generation should not be handed over to private companies for profit making and hence demanding that micro hydro power stations should not be handed over to private companies. Mahavitaran Company has proposed drastic reduction of the work force involved in electricity distribution under the guise of “restructuring”. The electricity workers of Maharashtra are opposing this and pointing out that in fact tens of thousands of electricity workers need to be recruited so that the fundamental need of citizens for electric power can be properly ensured for all of them. They are demanding that thousands of workers who have been working in the Maharashtra electricity sector for many years as contract workers should be absorbed as permanent workers.
Realizing that the fight of the electricity workers is in the general interest of society, apart from the activists of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, organisations like the Lok Raj Sangathan, Sahyog Sthanik Janvikas Sanstha, Kalwa and the Navkranti Shetkari Sanstha, Kalwa have been organizing a campaign to enlighten the citizens about the disastrous course of privatisation and to build unity among different sections of the working class and people to oppose this anti-people, anti-social move. About 40 street corner, mohalla and society meetings were held in different parts of Kalwa for this purpose. Leaflets issued by the Regional Committee of the CGPI were distributed in large numbers. (see page 3). Three big demonstrations were organised on different days on the outskirts of Kalwa station, West as well as East. People responded very enthusiastically to this initiative and thousands of signatures were given demanding that the government withdraw this move to privatise the basic service. This campaign added strength to the fight of the electricity workers.
In support of just demands, hundreds of electricity workers were addressed at two gate meetings and it was emphasised that privatisation has been pursued by every political party in power and therefore unity of all workers and users is required to defeat this attack.
MEL calls upon all the working people to support these just demands of electricity workers of Maharashtra and of the entire country. This struggle is to safeguard one of the basic needs of all the working people, i.e. electricity at affordable rate.