By: Express News Service | Kolkata | Published: June 14, 2020 5:18:24 am
In the letter, Mamata Banerjee complained that this would create an additional financial burden for Bengal. (File)
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has opposed the Centre’s draft Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020.
Banerjee said in the letter on Friday that the Bill was against the interests of federalism. According to sources in the state secretariat, the Chief Minister talked with top state government officials and the electricity department before sending it to Modi.
“She mentioned in the letter that this proposed Act is anti-people as well as anti-farmer and anti-unorganised sectors. This new tariff system will also give trouble to semi-urban and village peoples,” said a senior official.
“The Chief Minister strongly opposed the proposed tariff and billing policies of the Central Government. According to the new proposed bill, the consumer has to pay the electricity bill first. Then like LPG, the subsidy money will be credited to his or her bank account,” the officer added.
Opposing this, Banerjee told her close aide, “It will be very difficult for common people to pay the lump sum amount first. So, the number of defaulters will increase and it will become difficult for the common man to continue electricity connection in their residence.”
According to the state electricity department, the draft Bill proposes to abolish states’ power to determine tariffs. Instead, the Centre will form a regulatory commission to determine uniform tariff rates across India.
This, according to Banerjee, is an unwanted intervention by the Centre. In the letter, she told Modi about states’ power at present to determine their own tariff rates according to their structure and other constraints, sources said. She said the Centre unilaterally determining the rates would go against India’s federal structure. The Chief Minister added it would be impossible for the state to obey this tariff policy.
The draft Bill also proposes to form a central Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA) to settle legal disputes related to electricity distribution, circulation and purchases.
The Chief Minister questioned the need for another central regulatory body when the Centre already has one, and so do the states. She pointed out that this new body would not have any representation from states, and called this unacceptable and against the federal interests of India.
The proposed Bill also has a clause mandating every state to buy some unconventional energy. In the letter, Banerjee complained that this would create an additional financial burden for Bengal.
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