People's Democracy

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


No. 17

April  24, 2011


AP: Left Parties Oppose

Power Tariff Hike


A STATE level convention of eleven Left parties in Andhra Pradesh has opposed the proposed hike in power tariff and demanded that the state government must come out with a comprehensive pro-people power policy. It also called on the people to prepare for a long term struggle to fight back the state government's moves towards privatising the power sector.


In a resolution adopted by the convention held in Sundarayya Vignana Kendram in Hyderabad on  April 17, the Left parties warned the people of the state that the Congress government is trying to heap huge burdens on the people through tariff hikes in the coming period. After the heroic struggle of the Left parties against power tariff hike in 2000, during which two persons were killed in police firing, no state government in Andhra Pradesh dared to hike the power tariff. Now the present government is trying to make up for all this through hefty hike.


For domestic power consumers, the proposed hike in tariff is as follows: Rs 1.45 per unit up to 50 unit slab, Rs 2.80 per unit up to 100 units, Rs 3.05 per unit up to 200 units, Rs 4.75 per unit under 300 units, Rs 6 per unit under 500 units slab and Rs 6.25 per unit for those who consume over and above 500 units per month.


The convention at the outset paid tributes to the Basheerbagh martyrs who were killed in police firing in 2000 while rallying against power tariff hike. It also condemned the recent police firings in Sompeta and Kakarapalli on protestors agitating against grabbing of land for private power projects. The Left leaders in their speeches highlighted the fact that most of the private power plants are owned either by leaders belonging to the ruling parties or else their near and dear ones. They elucidated that most of those plants are receiving lands, water and other facilities from the government very cheaply under the Merchant Power Plant policy. These private power plants which are leaving behind pollution and dust ridden conditions to the local people are selling the power they are generating to the outside states and making profits, the Left leaders condemned.


The AP Electricity Regulation Commission has recommended imposing of Rs 641 crore burden directly on power consumers. Although the government is misleading the people by stating that the proposed hike is only for the high end consumers, the fact is that around Rs 500 crore of this amount would be collected from every consumer in the form of 'consumer service charge', said B V Raghavulu, CPI(M) state secretary and Polit Bureau member. During the finalisation of Power Purchase Agreements with various private power producers, the government is basing the calculations deliberately on fraudulent figures. And later in the name of Fuel Surcharge Adjustment (FSA), huge amounts are being recovered from the people, he charged.


Raghavulu said that the World Bank is pushing amenable state governments to privatise power sector and the present Congress government is pursuing that goal in a discrete manner. He found fault with the government doling out thousands of crores of rupees to private producers who were not even providing any electricity to the discoms. This was being done under a clause whereby the government is bound to pay fixed charges to the producers even if they do not supply power due to non-availability of gas and for not using other costly fuels like naptha. Using this clause the government has prepared the ground for collecting around Rs 4600 crores from the consumers, he added.


The private power companies are demanding the government for the payment of fixed charges, under the pretext that they could not produce power during 2008-2010 because of the non-supply of gas to them, he told further. The Venkateswara Electricity Company in Visakhapatnam received Rs 170 crores as fixed charges from the government even without producing a single unit of power, Raghavulu revealed. As of now GVK, Konaseema, Gowthami, Vemagiri and other power companies are demanding the government for a payment amounting to around Rs  3000 crore as fixed charges, he added. The past government of TDP and the present one of Congress brought in clauses that allowed for the payment of the fixed charges to the private companies, Raghavulu reminded. The private companies are bringing pressure on the government utilizing this clause. The private power companies which made contracts with the organisations like the Reliance for supply of gas should bring about such pressure for the fixed charges on those organisations instead of on the government, told Raghavulu. If the government pays those charges, it would simply pass on the burden onto the people of the state. Expressing concern on the severe burdens on the people for a long time because of the FSA and fixed charges, Raghavulu called on the people to fight for removal of these clauses. He underlined the need to explain to the public about the intricacies of the dangerous policies of the government with a lot of patience, in order to carry on a long term movement. He wanted the people of the state to be made aware of these moves of the government and struggle built up once again against this process.


CPI state secretary K Narayana charged the government of first diluting and then removing the free power supply scheme to farmers in the state and mentioned Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia's comments recently disapproving the scheme. He felt that the merchant power plants being set up in a big way are an offshoot of corruption at the centre. The large allocation of land for these projects is a big scam. He endorsed the resolution placed by Raghavulu and called on people to prepare for a struggle against the government moves.


CPI(ML) New Democracy state secretary Vemulapalli Venkatramaiah condemned the attitude of the government, which on one side had promised that it would not hike the power charges, but on the other side is making attempts to backstab the people by resorting to such hikes.


Leaders of MCPI(U), SUCI(C), RSP, Forward Bloc, CPI(ML) Liberation and other smaller Left parties also spoke.