February 20, 2022

CITU Supports Struggle against Privatisation of Chandigarh Electricity Department

Below we publish the statement issued by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions on February 15

THE central government has decided to privatise the Chandigarh Union Territory Electricity Department. This is the cheapest and efficient electricity provider to the city and suburb populations. Moreover it is a profit making entity.

In utter defiance of the judicial dictum, the city electricity department will be bundled into a company and its share would be transferred to a private company. The Kolkata-based industrial and services conglomerate RP-Sanjiv Goenka (RPSG) Group is said to have quoted the so-called ‘highest bid’ of Rs 871 crores to take over the department that has an annual turnover of more than Rs 1,000 crores and has Rs 20,000-25,000 crores worth of assets. The central government has decided to sell such a huge public asset to a private company called the Eminent Electricity Distribution (EED), a wholly-owned subsidiary of RPSG flagship company, the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation. In order to legitimise this day light loot of public assets, the valuation of land and fixed assets has been fixed at Re 1 per annum.

Though the privatisation decision was taken in 2020, it was thus far stalled by the vociferous agitations by the electricity employees under the banner of UT Powermen Union Chandigarh – both in and out of courts.

When the central home ministry took the final decision to sell this important government department to private players in September 2021, immediately Chandigarh electricity employees went on several strikes since October 2021. Then again they went for one-day strike on February 1, 2022 where hundreds of electricity employees from adjoining states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab rallied in solidarity. National leaders of employees and engineers organisations from power sector took part representing the broad-based platform of National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE). Again, on February 15, 2022 the entire Chandigarh civil society- resident associations and general public including peasants from the rural areas mobilised in large numbers along with trade unions and political parties and protested against this disastrous anti-national move and staged a massive dharna. Now the UT Powermen Union Chandigarh has declared 72 hours strike, that is three-day strike from February 22-24, 2022 against this anti-national move of transferring the profit-making public entity to private players. If the demand to stop privatisation is not conceded, the UT Powermen Union Chandigarh has declared that this 72 hours strike would be converted into an indefinite strike.

When the central government contemplated such a move of reckless privatisation of electricity utilities in the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Pondicherry, it was defeated by the united joint movement of electricity employees and engineers with public support in their respective union territories. Without learning any lesson from these episodes, the authoritarian regime has embarked upon the same route to demonstrate its loyalty to the private corporates.

CITU expresses solidarity with the struggling Chandigarh electricity employees and the general public who are extending unflinching support to the workers. It unequivocally condemns this privatisation drive – the unbridled servility of the Modi regime to the corporate caprices for public assets and demands an immediate unconditional stop to these anti-national activities.