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Editorial desk

ELIMINATING INEFFICIENCIES– MANAGING HRIS

 

Vydyuthi Bhavanam, Thiruvananthapuram will be witnessing a revolutionary step towards harnessing the possibilities of HRIS, the flagship software developed for managing the most important resource, the human capital. Most probably, from next month onwards, Vydyuthi Bhavanam employees will have no attendance book and the punching data will be captured directly in HRIS and linked to the payroll. It’s a welcome step indeed.

The Human Resource Information System (HRIS) software was introduced in KSEB aiming to map all the Human resource functions of our organization namely employee information, payroll, provident fund, pension, leave and general transfer. The full-fledged implementation began from 2012 onwards, when all the ARUs were asked to export the legacy data into the software.

Human Resource Department should actively explore the merits of the organisation while extracting the scalability of HRIS package. The possibilities are countless. The HRIS software was intended to automate all the HR processes required by our organization in order to maintain an efficient workforce but has taken a very long time to come out of the incubator.

HRIS should have the whole service book data of an employee. It’s high time that full employee data (leave, incumbency, service history, pay history etc.) is entered into HRIS. A concerted data entry effort can make these data available in a month’s time. Elimination of Service books and automation of leave data, PF data and other related works will spare quality time to Engineers for managing the core technical issues.

At present Provident Fund data in HRIS is captured from payroll. But credit card preparation, interest calculation seems to be still manual. This shall also be automated.

The online transfer application which is coming up shall also be linked with the HRIS so that the relieving and joining will be done automatically through HRIS.

Other functions like pension, IB booking, processing of TA and DA allowances, reimbursement of medical expenses, medical advance etc. can be incorporated into the package subsequently. It is heard that the pension module is under testing phase at some places. The real concern is the long time taken for development of these modules.

The IT Act has given credential to Digital Signatures in Communication. Adopting Digital Communication with the help of Digital Signatures can eliminate the communication delays in the offices. Digital Signature Certificates (DSCs) along with Aadhar shall also be linked with HRIS so that the officers shall enjoy speedy and secure communication.

Training is one of the important tools to enhance the skill set of employees, especially in a technical and engineering organisation. Mapping training needs and introducing compulsory training for all employees shall be done through HRIS.

We urge the management to have a focused approach in fully leveraging the HRIS package by properly increasing the resources of the HRIS team and to cover all the functions of the HRM department .In a recent speech given to PWD engineers, Hon.Dr.E.Sreedharan lamented about the plight of Engineering organisations which should have right mix of human resources to actively leverage the core competence of the organisation. In these turbulent times KSEBL is being singled out by regulatory organisations for inefficiencies in Human capital. By introducing sufficiently automated Human Resource systems KSEBL can eliminate the inherent inefficiencies in managing these resources and making them a happier lot. Happy employees contribute to a vibrant workforce and a vibrant organisation.

Simultaneously, we also urge the management to introduce ERP software in KSEBL that will facilitate information sharing across different organizational units located at various geographical locations. The integrated information from all the “information islands” can very well support the business activity and enable decision-makers for at arriving timely, reliable and consistent decisions for achieving organisational goals.

 

 Resurrecting Distribution wing ……

The Southwest monsoon has arrived in Kerala and once again the distribution infrastructure has been rattled by the monsoon fury, which shows our lack of preparedness in meeting such disasters. The scale of natural calamity occurring these days have been so severe that the damages due to these calamities have taken several days for restoration. The existing limited manpower and infrastructure has taken its toll for meeting such unexpected situations.. There are several causes like non availability of adequate materials, quality of materials used, quality of workmanship, lack of timely preventive maintenance and asset management etc. Almost all ddistribution engineers view this season with much fear and caution, since the delay in restoring supply will put them in a grave question not only from the public but also from the higher officers . Overburdened Assistant Engineers in Distribution sections normally bear the brunt of ire of both public and higher officials for the perils in Distribution sector.

Distribution sector has often been provided assistance for infrastructure development with several Centrally sponsored schemes but most often the utility has failed to take full advantage of such schemes be it Master plan, D A project, APDRP,RAPDRP,RGGVY, etc. for various reasons. However, the maintenance of the vast distribution network is met with our own limited funds. . The seasonal maintenance activities often get hampered due to vagaries of monsoon and some socio political reasons. This causes severe limitation on the network and it gives way at the first available instance. Thus the main task of the employees engaged in the distribution sector lies in maintaining these infrastructures timely and to rectify the breakdown of the system without delay..

 

In this context, we urge the management to think about a complete restructuring of the HT and LT functions of the Distribution sector. The Capital, Maintenance and Breakdown works of HT infrastructure may be assigned to a separate team in each Electrical Division with adequate staff and maintenance equipment for attending maintenance and capital works of all HT network including transformers and associated structures. The Electrical section offices may be entrusted with only with the capital, maintenance and breakdown works of LT infrastructure, consumer grievances, metering . Currently the maintenance wing in each Electrical section functions under one Sub Engineer dealing with the maintenance of HT and LT infrastructure. Due to the heavy work load, maintenance of Distribution transformers does not take place and thus its lifetime is significantly reduced with more chances for transformers to become faulty. Also the main cities are witnessing the growth in the number of Ring Main Units (RMU) and the 11 kV UG Cable, which needs a specialised team for maintenance.

 

At the same, as often reminded through these pages, the bifurcation of sections according to consumer strength and not merely based on area covered and other trivial reasons needs to be implemented in a timely manner so that number of consumers in any section is limited to a maximum of 12000. This will help in carrying out the functioning of the section office in a more effective manner with the restructuring proposed above.

 

It remains an accepted fact that distribution sector in KSEB needs a thorough study for revamping. Distribution planning in a scientific way is an area in which KSEB is lagging behind. Planning and rearranging networks in a geographic area with load flow studies, capacitor placement studies, power quality studies etc have not been started in KSEB in a meaningful way. The proposal for bifurcation should also look into integrating planning studies into Distribution sector realm.

 

Assistant Engineers of the Electrical Sections have reached a flash point in the assigned duties such that they may resort to extra – Constitutional methods, if further work load is forced upon them. The management has often been approached several times with proposals to minimise the work load of the Assistant Engineers. But instead of doing a detailed study, such proposals have been brushed under the carpet and fresh workloads are continued to be imposed upon these engineers. It is expected that in the changed scenario, the management will look into the above issues and the grievances of the Engineers in Distribution sectors and find an amicable solution as immediately as possible by starting discussions and study with the various stakeholders involved.

HERALDING A NEW ERA………………….

A new Government have taken charge of the affairs of the State and a new Minister has taken charge of the Ministry of Power. We congratulate the new Government as well as the new Minister and extend them all support for their developmental initiatives. Incidentally, the new Chief Minister happens to be the Minister for Power in his earlier tenure and during that period, he had put his stamp and authority for his administrative capabilities.

Lot of challenges are there in the power sector that needs to be tackled urgently by the new Government. Major challenge is the revival of stalled generation projects which are at various stages of implementation and in which huge amount of money is already invested. All out efforts are to be taken for reviving the construction of the stalled ongoing projects like 60 MW Pallivasal Extension scheme(PES) and 40 MW Thottiyar HEP which are driven into a mess.The issues need to be sorted out for restarting the activities by initiating discussions with the concerned and keeping in mind the interests of the organisation. The latest Government order issued in this regard for the foreclosure of these projects needs to be reviewed. It is needless to point out that foreclosure will not give us the desired goal of additional power inspite of investing hugely over the years but can only be of much relief to the Contractor. Environmental clearance obtained for projects like Athirappilly HEP is to be put to use at the earliest. Clearance for the Pathrakadavu HEP is to be secured. Financial and technical issues are to be cleared for the Brahmapuram and Cheemeni projects.

 

Similarly, highest priority should be given to the stalled projects in the transmission sector. The construction of 400 kV, Edamon- Kochi line by PGCIL should be given the foremost attention. It has been in the execution phase for more than 10 years and is still nowhere near the completion stage. The opposition raised by the local public in some areas is the major hindrance towards completion of the dream project. This project will help the State in evacuating power more economically from the Kudankulam atomic power project.

The transmission infrastructure is deeply inadequate for meeting the present and the future needs. In the era of open access and power trading, Extra High Tension transmission lines have become the major power corridors for purchase and sale of electricity, which can be a major revenue source for our utility in the future , since we have high capacity hydel reservoirs which can provide power during off-peak hours. The TransGrid project launched by the previous Government is an ideal launch pad for meeting the goals of the transmission sector. But the ambiguity in funding of the project needs to be resolved in a transparent manner considering its long term impacts. To meet the entire capital funding for this project, availing of some low cost external assistance like that availed for Kochi metro/KSTP PWD projects could even be considered for completing the project in time. The TransGrid projects need to be prioritized based on the value addition, scope of revenue generation, investment requirement, time for completion etc. to mitigate the risk to the organisation. All financial and technical analysis, including risk analysis, shall be conducted in detail to ensure the feasibility of the project as huge investment is involved.

 

In the distribution sector, though adequate funding in the form of Central aid and other assistances from other funding agencies like REC/PFC are available, the goal should be for timely completion of the projects. Hence the ongoing RAPDRP projects should be speeded and complete it in time. Similarly the newly launched projects like DDUGJY and IPDS shall be commenced immediately. For the smooth progress of any project, timely decision is a must.

The other domain which requires attention is the IT sector, where the projects extend for long years. Lot of procedures are yet to be computerised and the goal of a paperless office is still resting in papers. We urge to launch an ERP software in KSEBL for Business process re-engineering, so that the entire work process in our organisation can be computerised in a more user friendly manner.

 

The next priority should be on for revamping the HR sector, where unwarranted external influences have damaged the credibility of the organisation. Even though online mode has been declared for transfer and postings, things are still happening in the primitive fashion for obvious reasons. Several top posts are rearranged frequently leading to confusion among the top brass. It is disappointing that even after becoming a public limited company; we have not yet settled down with a clear organisational hierarchy.

 

In general, lot of issues are remaining to be addressed by the Government. Apart from this, in the context of the proposed Amendments to the Electricity Act 2003, wherein the content and carriage is proposed to be segregated, the Government will have to shell out extra efforts to retain the unique structure of our organisation. Let us all come together and work for the bright future of our organisation.

 

Once again KSEBEA extend warm greetings to the new Government and offers all support in the efforts of the Government for the betterment of the organisation and the State at large.

 

 

Energy Security of Kerala

In the just concluded 63rd Annual General Body meeting at Thodupuzha the august speakers in the National Seminar on ‘Energy Security in Kerala – Open Access v/s. Internal Generation’ had raised serious concern about the weakening position in the internal generation capability of KSEBL and threat of open access, that can doom our position in the near future.

As is a fact,the internal generation capacity has certainly been skewed for the last decade, due to lack of focus in the generation projects and excessive interest in low cost electricity from across the borders and also the much hype on the promotion of solar and wind projects. Almost all major generation projects are in a stalled condition and new projects are having longer gestation period for reaching the takeoff stage.The Pallivasal Extension Scheme(PES) having a capacity of 60 MW and the Thottiyar HEP of 40 MW are in the construction stage for several years and still it is no where nearing the completion. The inordinate delay on part of the management in taking timely decision on critical issues and the inability of the contractor to move on with the projects has cost the organisation more than the 100 MW of power actually envisaged from these projects as the operation of these projects could have ensured more generation from downstream projects. It remains to be seen whether it was in fact a preplanned delay in decision making . The contractors assigned with the turnkey work for both the projects has been let free off the projects without any risk and cost citing that there has been no fault on part of the contractors, which is against the facts. In other words, the entire blame for delay in commissioning of these projects is self inflicted on the organisation and finally this will definitely be zeroed in on some scape goats who worked really hard for these projects. This kind of attitude which demoralises the work force is to be condemned at the first stroke itself.It is worth mentioning that the stalemate is still continuing even when the entire machinery for both these projects are available at hand . It may not be even surprising if the management finally decides to showcase these machinery as models for tourists and others!!

Other small hydro projects are also in a state of dilemma. The top management is not giving priority for the capital projects and this is clearly evident in the annual planning document 2016-17. While distribution sector has been given the highest allocation, the lowest allocation has been given to the generation sector , which is shocking and substantiates the lack of interest of management in internal generation.

This year the consumption has reached a record figure of 78.5 MU in the month of April itself, and for achieving this energy demand only about 25 MU was generated internally and the rest was availed through power purchase and import. The idea of imposing surcharge to the consumers for power purchase cost will not help in the long run, due to the threat of open access, whereby any consumer be it domestic, commercial , HT/EHT can avail supply from any generator and bring power to her/his premises through transmission lines after paying the wheeling charges to the transmission line owner. As wheeling charges are kept low , the desiring consumer can even think of bringing power from outside the State and we would have to provide transmission corridor for such transfers.

The Long term and short term power purchase agreements have been violated by the supply generators and hence there is no reliable mechanism for availing power carriage. Due to unforeseen shortages we are forced to sign for short term purchases and hence avail costly power from other sources.This would badly affect financial health of the KSEBL. For distribution projects, maximum central fund can be availed , whereas for generation projects, there is no such funds available and hence wastage of funds in the form of costly power purchase affects our capacity to develop our own generation.

For ensuring the energy security, the State should have sufficient spinning reserve for which necessary generation capacity addition is required. Similarly the renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, have not shown any significant presence in Kerala scenario due to viability and variability issues as well as policy and regulation complications. Hence in Kerala context renewable energy sources can be considered as energy sources rather than power sources. It is not at all a panacea to solve the energy security issue. We have to seek other feasible options like pumped storage stations and/ or other proposals for base load addition.

It is of no doubt that the seminar was well placed according to the requirement of the times. We would urge the the KSEBL management to shift the excessive focus on alternate sources to the base load plants to help our future generation enjoy the supply of electricity as is enjoyed by the present generation.

 

Intolerance in a “new” avatar

The transfer orders released by the Board on 4th March, minutes before the code of conduct came into effect mocks at the organisational ethos. The frequent and capricious downgrading and upgrading the posts of the Chief Engineer ignoring the core functions shows the mere confusion prevailing with the top management in the organisation. Time and again history has shown that such upgradation by giving full powers of Chief Engineer to a Deputy Chief Engineer is not a prudent decision be it the case of Pallivasal Extension Scheme, Thottiyar project and of late the postings in the case of SCM and HRM. It is unimaginable how the management can think of such foolish ideas again and again which clearly shows that the organisation is at a loss by such unmindful acts of some for meeting their vested interests.

When the posts of Chief Engineer, HRM and Chief Engineer ,SCM were down graded by giving “ full powers of CE” to a DCE,we had immediately pointed out and demanded that the core function of HRM shall not be neglected as it has other roles as well apart from the regular transfer and postings and also the SCM is a key functional area of the organisation. We had urged the management, through this editoiral and through representations to avoid such practises. At last it took almost one year for this enlightment to happen to the “ experts”. But the interesting aspect is the reasons cited in the order for the reinstatement of the posts of Chief Engineers in HRM and SCM which evokes only sympathy for these decision makers. This time the unfortunate prey is the post of Chief Engineer (Transmission –South) at the behest of Director(T&SO). Even more deplorable step in the instant order is the decision to give the “ full powers of CE Transmission South ” to a Deputy Chief Engineer when all the six Deputy Chief Engineers in the field are seniors. This clearly shows that this management is hell bent on not learning from earlier mistakes and are intended to play havoc on the organisation. We would like to highlight that the present decision to shunt out the present incumbent in the post of Chief Engineer (Transmission –South) is only because the Chief Engineer, (Transmission- South) did not agree to comply with illegal orders issued to bypass statutory requirements and also as he highlighted some of the issues associated with a bid in the PQ meeting.   Though the transmission is one of the core functions of our utility, it seems that the concerned head is ignorant of this or is acting ignorant for satisfying ceratin vested interests.

The transfer policy of HRM is also not an exception. KSEBL has invited application for general transfer for the engineers for the year 2016-17. As was the practice in previous years, this time also the general transfer application has been invited online through the HRIS. It is said that the online is chosen for greater transparency and accountability for the applicants as well as those involved in the transfer process though the real fact is not that. Ever since the online mode was preferred for general transfer,the application process remained easier, but there is no improvement in the transfer process time. Now a days   the transfer has become a round the year process.   What is the relevance of general transfer, if the anomaly orders are released weekly after that.   Last year after the general transfer order, 25 nos of anomaly orders of AEs and AEEs were released which is a record in the history of KSEBL. HRM department has turned to be a gullible department, with anyone who carries some “extra” weight can obtain a transfer order as and when he wishes.

We have now entered into a corporate structure where the Board management has very crucial roles to perform. The Companies Act envisages that the Directors of companies should always keep the interests of the company and its stakeholders, ahead and above their own personal interests. But it seems that the present technical Directors are ignorant of the aspect of individual responsibilty of the Directors. Now instead of building confidence among employees, they are in the track of demotivating the employees through one way or other. Another disturbing trend in the organisation at present is undue priority given to some areas like solar, IT without ascertaining the consequences and   neglecting of the other core functions. Had the management paid such interests to develop the core functions like generation, transmission and distribution , the scenario would have been a rosy one. This organisation is very essential for protecting the interests of the public and hence we urge the Director board not to yield any immature or non pragmatic approaches of those who are at the helm of the affairs. We should not allow this organisation to bleed and transform into another KSRTC. We call upon all like minded employees to come together, as we have done in the past, to thwart such new acts of intolerance of select top management.

A MYTH CALLED PAY REVISION

Though the final outcome of the pay revision of Engineers and officers of KSEBL had not converged so far, based on the series of so called discussions and the proposal now being formulated it can very easily be stated that the pay revision this time around will be an illusion. It is not clear as top what forced the management to take a defiant stand against the pay revision of the engineers and the officers. May be it is felt by the management that all the associations are rather soft and will not resort to any drastic action and hence can easily be bull dozed. But we would like to call upon the management to have a glimpse on the past when all the associations of engineers and officers joined hands in the protest against corporatisation without taking the employees into confidence. The outcome of the same is known to all. We would like to reiterate that we will not desist from showing dissent if we are forced to do so by the management. But in the larger interets of the organisation and the State we are against initiating such drastic steps and similarly we expect the management to appreciate the concerns and act accordingly.

A pay revision committee was constituted by the government for revision of pay and allowances of employees and officers of KSEB Ltd. and the employees and officers were not fully satisfied with its proposals. We had demanded before the committee for a separate pay scale for engineers of KSEB Ltd but it was not given the weightage it deserved. The Board formed a sub committee for conducting negotiation with the representatives of trade unions and associations of Engineers and officers. The pay revision of workmen has come into effect with the signing of the LTS by the trade unions where as that of officers is waiting in the wings..

          Normally, in KSEB the pay revision process of workmen is completed first and then the discussion process is initiated with the associations of Engineers & officers . But this time around in a glaring deviation from the past, the proposed pay scale of engineers & officers was first circulated to the trade unions. Whether it was intentional or unintentional , all the associations of Engineers and officers expressed strong displeasure during the discussion inspite of admission of error by the management. We strongly feel that it was a deliberate attempt by the management to cap the pay scale and allowances of engineers and officers under the pretext that the trade unions had strong reservations on the same. But this is not at all a healthy practice for any professional organisation. Infact all the associations of engineers and officers even demanded for a separate Master scale for Engineers & officers by delinking the same from that of the workmen. Though the mangement was supportive of this idea it was informed that it was too late for this time around. We demand that the master scale of Engineers and officers shall be separate and delinked from that of the workmen at the earliest possible oppurtunity.

All the associations were unanimous in their demand for maintaing the existing scale parity with the government scale. In the proposal, the hike in various allowances are too meagre to appreciate. We demanded special package for engineers working in generation and a appropriate allowance to Assistant Engineers in distribution sections. The issue of an additional increment for new recruits was demanded to be continued. After much deliberations the management agreed to look into the issues.

The management also agreed to increase the limit of allowances for those working in isolated areas and for providing the duty allowance which was denied to a certain section of engineers through a misinterpretation of the provision. The matter of including the eligible allowances in the surrender of Earned leave for employees in generating stations was raised by us and the management agreed to consider it favourably. We also pointed out that the matter has already taken up by us with the Board for permitting the inclusion of allowances and the same has been referred to the Government. The management had shown some leniency in allowing additional allowances for Assistant Engineers working at IHEP by allowing the drawal of Tunnel allowance. Regarding saftey, there was a general consensus that the present sytem of safety practice is totally inadequate. We suggested that Safety should be made a technical audit exercise rather than the present system and for which there should be a separate independent wing for effective enforcement. The proposal for transfer through a transparent online process based on clearly established norms was accepted by one and all. We informed that for arriving at the seniority in transfers a sample Seniority calculator software has been prepared with due weightage for outstation service , generation service and females etc. Association requested to consider this for discussion among all concerned. Subsequently a copy of the software was handed over to the CMD.

           In short, a very bleak picture is emanating for the payrevision this time around and we request and expect all like minded colleagues to arise, unite and fight for our legitimate demands for our professional input to this esteemed organisation.Our fight shall not end until we achieve our goal.

The endless waiting ………….

 The Tenth Pay Revision Commission for Kerala Government employees have submitted their report in July 2015 and which will be effective from July 2014 . The State Government has already constituted its Minister level committee to evaluate the proposals. But in KSEBL, no serious steps have so far been initiated to implement the pay revision which had become due since July 2013. Though the relevant provisions of the Electricity Act ensures better terms and conditions to employees while reorganising, the employees of KSEB have not been rewarded with any better service package when the transfer scheme was implemented.

The practice in KSEBL is to follow the State Government proposals and to peg our pay scale with that of the State Government officers working in other departments like PWD and Electrical Inspectorate. This has led to frequent lowering of pay scales for our engineers. Engineers in KSEBL are paid less than their counterparts in other States and Central Power utilities. But for others, the pay scale is superior to their compatriots in State Government as well in Central Government.

It is quite surprising that the Assistant Engineer of an electrical section has to shoulder the entire responsbility and risk under his/her section jurisdiction, whereas the senior superindent in that office has no such risk or responsiility eventhough both officers derive the same basic salary. The pay package should be commensurate with the job responsibility and should accommodate the inflation,standard of living and the risk factor involved in the job. The 14th Central Finance Commission recommended linking the pay with productivity, with a simultaneous focus on technology, skills and incentives.

Another menace is the granting of allowances which are added on to the basic pay. In this regard, the Board completely lets down its employees by ordering paltry allowances like medical allowance, technical allowance etc. It is high time that either such allowances should be enhanced properly or else be eliminated totally. Allowances determine the risk of the job depending upon the nature of the job and place of work. These should be attractive so that the officers working away from homes should feel that they are adequately compensated. Also all allowances should be defined in terms of percentage of basic pay . The amount of allowances given to an officer in a generation station should be higher than their counterparts in transmission and distribution, since most of them are working away from their home.

Unlike in the past, now a days employees are rather reluctant to work in generating stations and try to evade from transfer to generating stations due to various reasons known to all. To attract more engineers to work in generation, the generation allowance should be compensated adequately through a fair package instead of demoralizing them with meager allowances. In the previous pay revision discussions, when there was attempt to reduce the allowances of engineers in generation wing , only our association raised hue and cry and the then Chairman intervened to address the same.

The field officers should be fairly compensated than the officers who handle the office duties. Field officers have greater risk and responsibility associated to their job and if anything happens in the field, the field officer has a lifelong liability. Other facilities like medical checkup,health insurance,increment for higher qualification, incentive for officers for winning cases in courts, interest subsidy for housing loans etc. should be provided as per company rules. Considering the improved health condition and longevity of life, the retirement age of employees should be revisited appropriately.

The morale and motivation of the engineers needs to be boosted up through a decent and modest pay package that suits the industrial standards,otherwise it will have to witness the brain drain in the form of large scale migration of quality engineers to abroad for taking up better jobs providing job satisfaction and enhanced prosperity.

The War continues…………..

The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2014 introduced in the Parliament on December 19, 2014 has already attracted the ire of State governments as well as the employees and engineers working in power sector as it will have adverse impact on the Indian power sector. The main purpose of this bill was further splitting of Electricity Distribution Sector into carriage and content to enable profit mongers to enter into supply business of urban and revenue potential area without any investment for development or expansion of the Power Industry.

All   the major federations of employees and engineers in the country’s power sector came together on a common platform of National Co-ordination Committee for Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE), for fighting against the anti-people provisions in the Bill.

The splitting of distribution business into content and carriage involves significant costs and may not be easy to reverse. The risk associated with it has to be taken seriously as the interest of private sector is only to earn profits by hook or crook. The multiple licensee system would categorize electricity consumers into priority and non-priority (subsidized) categories leading to “cherry picking”. The incumbent public sector licensee will be responsible for supplying electricity to the unprivileged common man (universal supply obligation). This is nothing but nationalizing the losses and privatizing the profits. Also, competition is possible only in a power surplus scenario.

The proponents of the bill claim that this provision will enhance the quality of power supply and enhance the customer satisfaction and minimize the distribution losses. But the real life scenario has proved to be contrary. The experience in Delhi and Mumbai, where private licensees are engaged in distribution business has seen one of the largest tariff hikes seen in recent times. It led to the fall of the government of the day in Delhi with a crushing defeat which is unparallel in the history of democracy in our country. Such has been the public anguish that every government in our country should learn lessons and introspect. The ill effects of the much hyped “Franchisee” model should also be an eye opener before deciding on such new provisions now proposed.

As Electricity is a matter on the concurrent list in the Constitution, the powers of the State Governments, which are already shackled to a large extent by virtue of Electricity Act 2003, are seen likely to be curtailed by the proposed amendments. The priorities and strategies of the states will be different for different states. Every state has its own stake in deciding the structure of the sector, development strategies, tariff design, decisions on subsidies and cross subsidies etc. Hence enforcing policy decisions of central government on such matters as mandatory is against the federal set up of governance and is not proper. Eighteen States have already protested against the implementation of the proposed amendments. So the idea of the Union government to allow private licensees will probably back fire into its vote bank and would affect the majority mandate enjoyed by it.

There are certain other provisions in the Bill which would usher in positive changes in the power sector viz. Renewable energy and Smart grid. The Electricity Act,2003 does not clearly define the renewable sources of energy, which the Amendment Bill defines as hydro, wind, solar, bio-mass, co-generation from these sources, geothermal and other sources which will be subsequently notified by the central government. Also in the lines of the National Electricity Policy brought out by the EA 2003, the bill recommends for National Renewable Energy Policy which seeks to promote generation of renewable energy through tax rebates and generation linked incentives.

The Bill defines a Smart Grid as an electricity network that uses information and communication technology to generate, transmit and distribute electricity efficiently.  It seeks to promote provision of electricity through Smart Grid.  The Bill also provides for the installation of smart meters for proper accounting and measurement of the consumption and metering of electricity.

The most remarkable positive change proposed is the provision for reigning in the role of State Electricity Commissions in the respective States. Most of these commissions are ruled by members with vested interests, appointed by lobbying the government functionaries and they doesn’t have any interest in promoting the public utilities in the power sector. They have encroached on the functions of the public utilities and are vying to be supremo uno in the State’s power sector without showing any commitment to the public. The Bill proposes for appointing independent members without any interferences of the ruling government and reduces the term of office for the chairperson or other members of the Regulatory Commissions from five years to three years.  The Bill also allows for re-appointment of the Chairperson and members for one more term in the same capacity in which they had earlier held office.

The central government was reluctant to hold discussion with stake holders of the sector, especially with the representatives of employees associations and unions. On November 6, 2015 more than 10,000 employees took out a massive protest march under the banner of NCCOEEE  to the venue of the All India conference of State power ministers   demanding revocation of the proposed amendment to the Electricity Act 2003. A delegation of NCCOEEE met Sri. Piyush  Goyal , Power Minister and he assured the delegation that   the concerns of the employees and engineers working  in the power sector will be addressed. He informed that the States will be given the power to decide the timing and method of introducing competition in distribution and no cherry picking will be permitted. The necessary changes in the bill cleared by the standing committee will be made after further discussion in the next meeting to be held after three weeks. He assured the delegation that detailed discussion with them will be held  in New Delhi after three weeks but before presenting the Electricity  (Amendment ) bill 2014 in the Parliament.

Our Association had taken up the matter with the Hon. Prime Minister of India and had represented the facts before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy. The report of the Parliamentary Committee on the Amendment Bill has been published in this publication earlier. The protest march and meeting conducted by NCCOEEE at Kochi during the Power Minister’s Conference was a great success, considering the decisions which came out of the meeting with the Power Minister. It showed that if all unions and associations remain united and fight for the common cause, then any threat to power sector can be combated effectively. Let this be a way out for the future threats and united shall we stand for the sake of the public good.

 

 

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