People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 34

August 23, 2009

MADHYA PRADESH

 

BJP Govt Resorts To Noxious Anti-Democratic Moves

 

Jaswinder Singh

 

THE Madhya Pradesh state assembly recently discussed the power crisis in the state and MLAs demanded that the state must be rid of darkness. The crisis has eclipsed the agriculture, trade and industry in the state. It was told that the power crisis in not only affecting the people’s lives, it is as well claiming the people’s lives. Only a few weeks ago, a daily of Bhopal, the state capital, had published a story about how a prominent hospital had organised in its labour room an operation on a woman in candle light because there was no power supply at the time. If such is the situation of power supply in the state capital, one can well imagine what would have been happening in the hospitals in remote areas.

 

CONGRESS

RELUCTANCE

However, yet another issue is linked to that of power supply, though it was not discussed in the assembly. And possibly the opposition Congress party too wanted to avoid a discussion on this issue. But even though this issue was not discussed in the assembly, is being discussed, day and night, in every village, every habitation, every ward and every lane. This is the issue of power companies who are resorting to goondaism to forcibly collect from the consumers the amounts for inflated bills. These companies are foisting cases of power theft upon honest and law-abiding citizens, and thus subjecting them to insults, humiliation and defamation. They are being imprisoned for cooked-up crimes and/or made to pay hefty fines. It would naturally have been far more useful if only the assembly had discussed this issue. But, no, the Congress too did not want such a discussion either. It has its own compulsion, and a discussion on this issue would have put the Congress too in the dock. One may recall that it was during the tenure of a Congress government, led by Digvijay Singh alias Diggi Raja, that the Tata-Rao committee had made its recommendations and the latter were accepted and implemented.

Moreover, it was a Congress government that initiated the move to divide the state electricity board (SEB) --- a move which the subsequent BJP government faithfully took forward. This led to the creation of power companies, and the privatisation of power distribution in the state. Thus, if only the Congress had initiated any discussion on the mode of functioning of the power distribution companies and their behaviour with the common consumers, the BJP could well have retorted that it had only widened into a road the detour which the Congress had created.

Yet, the issue of forcible collection of power bills did come up in the assembly --- even if in a passing manner and in a subdued manner.

 

INSULT TO

DEMOCRACY

Now the question arises: why does an assembly, after all, discuss an issue? In a state, its assembly is the highest forum for an expression of the people’s hopes and aspirations, problems and griefs. An assembly discusses a problem in order to fix the government’s responsibility about its solution. It is therefore very natural if the people expect that the government of the day would rise to the occasion and take effective steps to solve the problem under discussion. But, no, the people of Madhya Pradesh did not get any relief from the power crisis even after the assembly debate was over. On the contrary, power tariffs were raised immediately after the assembly session came to an end.

What it was if not a humiliating attitude towards the democratic system and the people? The assembly could well have discussed it if the distribution companies (distcoms) are suffering any losses --- real or imaginary. The assembly could also have discussed and given its opinion upon the Electricity Regulatory Commission’s proposals for power tariff hikes. But nothing like this happened. This was the height of irresponsible attitude the BJP government of the state adopted, an insult to the very system of democracy.

To add insult to the people’s injury, leaders of the government and the ruling party are resorting to the excuse that it was a decision of the Energy Regulatory Commission and that the Shivraj government has nothing to do with it. But, are the people really gullible, as the government seems to think? If it was a decision of the Energy Regulatory Commission, why did they wait for the close of the assembly session to implement it? Because, in that case, a storm could well have overtaken the assembly. Similarly, if it were really the case, why were the hikes not effected before the Lok Sabha polls? Because the BJP knew it could not hide itself behind the façade of the commission and would have paid a heavy price.     

And who are the members of the regulatory commissions? Who did the BJP state government oblige by putting them in these bodies? Whose overtures these people follow? Whatever the Shivraj government say, can it really absolve itself of this crime? People cannot but take it as guilty.

 

TAKING CARE OF

WHOSE INTERESTS?

As for the recommended hikes, authorities of the Energy Regulatory Commission claim that they have fully taken care of the people’s interests. Their plea is that they have hiked the tariffs by only 3 per cent while the Electricity Regulatory Commission had proposed a 30 per cent hike. But they must remember that all sections of the people had opposed the latter’s proposals when they were made. Moreover, it is a patent fact that whether it is the regulatory commissions or their patron, the Shivraj government, both took care not of the people’s interests but of those of the distcoms controlled by monopoly houses. The state government was more eager to implement the ADB’s stipulation; the latter had said that it would release the next instalment of the loan only after the state government had hiked the tariffs.

The recent hikes have also brought the real face of the state government to the fore. While the government has hiked the tariff for the common people and the peasantry, it has lowered the tariffs for the industrialists. It is also worth recalling that these industrialists are big defaulters, owing to the state government billions of rupees. They are by no means incapable of paying their dues; in fact some of them are resourceful enough to purchase whole of a state electricity board, if he likes.

This is not to say that industries in the state are in a good condition. The ongoing global recession has hit the industries in Madhya Pradesh as well. In such a situation, they too need some relief. But the tragedy is that the industrialists do not care for their social obligations; otherwise they should have (and could have) paid their electricity bills and also taken steps to expand the employment opportunities, implemented the various labour laws, and taken some other measures. But the experience is that, to their thinking, secretly paying money to the coffers of the two major parties is their only ‘social’ responsibility, and its fulfilment gives them license to break the labour laws, steal power and do other anti-social things with impunity.        

But while the industrialists have been given quite hefty relief --- from 50 to 70 paise per unit of electricity --- the rates have been hiked from 25 to 30 paise per unit for the peasantry. And it is this class whose members are committing suicide in the wake of a severe agrarian crisis. Thousands of peasants had had to mortgage their plots to pay the inflated bills. About half of the state is in the grip of a frightening drought, and the issue of Bundelkhand region recently rocked the parliament as well. Therefore, while the peasant needs immediate relief, the BJP government of Madhya Pradesh rubbed salt to his injury by hiking the power tariffs. The peasant has been simply left worrying as to how he would be able to pay the enhanced rates when he was not able to pay the old rates either.

As for consumer households, the increase is from 20 to 70 paise per unit while a number of people in this section have either lost their jobs in the wake of the global recession or are afraid that they too might lose their jobs if the recession continues any longer. The skyrocketing prices of essential commodities are already breaking the backs of these people.

Is the government thinking that the people will meekly accept this burden? Most probably, they will not. They will protest --- in one form or another. No matter how many times the top BJP leaders express anxiety about their party’s eroding mass base and come to Bhopal to get the feedback, they may perhaps not be able to put a stop to this erosion. If anything, this kind of anti-people policies by the Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s government can only accelerate this process. Just keep watching how the issue of electricity gives the BJP and its self-conceited leaders some fatal shocks.