People's Democracy

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


No. 52

December 29, 2013


Workers Hold National Convention on Right to Energy


ENERGY workers of the country organised a National Convention on Right to Energy in Mavalankar Hall, New Delhi, on December 11, 2013. The initiative came from the Electricity Employees Federation of India (EEFI)


While CITU general secretary Tapan Sen inaugurated the convention, EEFI general secretary Prasanta Nandi Chowdhury presented the draft declaration for adoption by the convention.  Tapan Sen, in his inaugural address, criticised the government of India for its anti-people policies, including those for the energy sector. CITU president A K Padmanabhan greeted the convention, appreciating the EEFI’s effort to focus on such an important issue. Among the other speakers, S S Subramaniam (treasurer, EEFI), Swadesh Dev Roye (working president, EEFI), Subhash Lamba and J S Uppal, supported the draft declaration.


On behalf of fraternal organisations Shailendra Dubey (secretary general, AIPEF), S Ratina Sabapathy (LPF), Ashok Kumar (general secretary, AIFOPDE), and Kuldip Kumar (general secretary, INEWF) supported the declaration. K O Habib presided over the convention.




The declaration adopted by the convention recalled the decision taken by the seventh EEFI national conference, held at Kanchipuram (Tamilnadu) on August 10-12, 2013, to approach the organisations of workers and employees in energy sector to take up the issue of energy security of the nation, providing adequate availability of energy at affordable prices for each and every citizen of India. It was thus that this national convention on the Indian people’s right to energy took place, with the participation of all the major national federations of workers and employees in the energy sector enterprises.


The convention was called for a serious consideration towards developing the united struggle of energy sector employees, and of the people of India as a whole, in order to achieve universal access to energy.


The declaration said one of the primary conditions for human life today is access to energy that is a key driver of growth and development for the human community as a whole. In April 2011, the UN General Assembly declared 2012 as the “International Year of Sustainable Energy for All,” in recognition of the growing importance of energy for economic development and climate change mitigation. Later, in November 2011, the UN Secretary General launched the “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative to attract global attention for meeting three objectives --- to ensure universal access to modern energy services, to double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. Though the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 --- referred to as “Rio + 20” as it was held at Rio do Janeiro (Brazil) --- made no firm commitment, a process for sustainable development was initiated on energy access, to make sustainable energy for all a reality and, through this, to help eradicate poverty and lead to sustainable development and global prosperity.


But facts reveal that the world energy supplies are getting increasingly constrained. India needs to grow its energy share in a condition of sluggish growth in supply and rising prices. It is estimated that India’s share of world supply of fossil fuels in 2031-32 would rise from a level of 3.7 percent to 7.6 percent in the most energy efficient scenario to 10.9 percent in the most energy intensive scenario.


As per an expert committee constituted by the Planning Commission in August 2004, energy security, which means ensuring that our country can supply energy to all its citizens at affordable prices at all times, is an essential step forward but it must be considered as a transition strategy towards the goal of energy independence. This means so developing our economy that it functions well with total freedom from oil, gas or coal imports.




Obtaining a secure and adequate supply of a traded commodity, be it food or fuel, is generally a problem facing the poor people, poor regions or poor nations. The World Energy Assessment (UNDP 1999) report defines energy security as “The continuous availability of energy in varied forms in sufficient quantities and at reasonable prices.” In Indian context, this definition has been modified to mean the following: “We are energy secure when we can supply lifeline energy to all our citizens, irrespective of their ability to pay for it, as well as meet their effective demand for safe and convenient energy to satisfy their various needs at affordable prices, at all times.”    


The government of India was earlier subsidising four major petroleum products (petrol, diesel, kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas) with the primary objective of increasing their affordability and protecting domestic consumers from international price volatility. But the vested interests have been opposing the subsidy system on the plea of losses to the oil companies. The convention said this is not true as oil companies are making reasonable profits.


The new Exploration and Licensing Policy (NELP) was notified in 1999 on the demand of corporate houses and Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) was awarded the contract for operating the K G Basin.


The RIL quoted to the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) a price of 2.34 US dollars per mmbtu (million metric British thermal unit), while the ONGC rate was 1.83 dollars. In September 2007, before the RIL started operation, the empowere group of ministers (EGOM) approved a rate of 4.2 dollars against their demand of 4.33 dollars. When its subsequent demand of 14.2 dollars was not met, the RIL reciprocated by lowering the production. The government decided to hike the gas price to 8.4 dollars per mmbtu from April 1, 2014.


In 2011, 53 percent of energy produced in India was coal based. The Planning Commission estimated that at a five percent rate of growth in coal consumption, India’s domestic coal reserves can be expected to last only 45 years. The Expert Committee on Integrated Energy Policy indicated that India has an estimated 56 to 71 billion tonnes (BT) of extractable coal.


As this resource is limited, prudent utilisation is demanded. But our policy makers’ ruinous game is of transferring coal reserves to private hands in the name of ultra mega power projects. They are diverting coal from the allocated blocks for unlawful gains. A coal scam amounting to Rs 10.6 lakh crore was unearthed in an initial report of the CAG. After CBI intervention, the report was changed at the sweet will of the minister concerned.


In its report, the eighth national conference of the All India Coal Workers Federation said: “Through such privatisation drive in coal mining, the government of the day is finally abdicating responsibility to ensure availability of coal and electricity, both essential necessity for the common people and also for development of our country, at affordable prices, thereby paving the way for total deregulation to serve the private corporates’ lust for profit.”




However, even after several deadlines set by the government for about Electricity for All, till 2011 about 400 million (33 percent) people of our country had no access to electricity and about 836 million (72 percent) were dependent on traditional biomass for cooking.


The per capita electricity consumption required to achieve a fair Human Development Index for a country is estimated to be about 5000 units, whereas that available in India is around 700 units. This contributes to our very poor HDI rank of 136 among various countries. Despite all its pious declarations, the government’s crystal-clear intention is to deny right to electricity to the people. The CERC notification and the approach paper on terms and conditions of tariff regulations for the period April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2019 nowhere talk of affordability for the people.


The convention’s declaration also referred to various other official documents, concluding that the government of India’s intention about denial of people’s access to energy becomes clear from various schemes. For example, the financial restructuring plan imposes compulsory annual tariff hike, and the approach paper for the 12th plan clearly declared the target of upward revision of energy prices to global level.


The national convention on right to energy therefore called for united struggles to press for recognition of the right to energy as a fundamental human right and for necessary changes in the policies to strengthen the public sector institutions created by independent India. This is a must to achieve the goal of universal access to energy within the shortest possible time.


The convention also opposed the exploitation of casual, contract, outsourced and irregular engagement of workers and employees in energy sector. It urged upon all sections of energy consumers to join hands with organisations of workers and employees for united struggle to put this exploitation to an end as well as to achieve the right to energy for all.


The convention raised the following demands, asking the government of India for their immediate settlement:

1) Ensure energy for all at affordable cost.

2) Stop transfer of energy resources to private hands.

3) Control price hike, prevent corruption.

4) Stop exploitation of energy workers.

5) Ensure wage revision for all energy workers and employees through collective bargaining.

6) Ensure strict enforcement of basic labour laws.

7) Stop disinvestment of public sector undertakings.

8) Stop contractisation of work of perennial nature.

9) Ensure full social security with pension, provident fund and ESI for all.

10) Meet all the demands of central trade union organisations immediately.