NBA Press Release
  25 November 2001
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Madhya Pradesh organisations term the present energy crisis a conspiracy, oppose privatization and trifurcation of the MPEB

"Decisions about the Madhya Pradesh's energy needs will have to be taken with the people in Madhya Pradesh, not in the ADB offices at Manila"

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Today in Bhopal, nearly all mass organizations grouped under the umbrella organization Jan Sangharsh Morcha , the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) union, the Madhya Pradesh Vidyut Karamchari Janta Union and Jailok Study Circle held a one day workshop on the causes and solutions to the present energy crisis raging in Madhya Pradesh , and the efficacy of the model of privatization and trifurcation of the energy sector that is being sought to be thrust on the people of Madhya Pradesh at the instance of the World Bank and the ADB.

The seminar was addressed among others by Abhay Mehta, well known author of "Power Play" a book on Enron's Dabhol Project in Maharashtra, Shri Prabir Purkayasta , senior member of Delhi Science Forum , Shri M.L.Chowkse, General Secretary of Madhya Pradesh Vidyut Karamchari Janata Union and Shri Mahendra Bajpayee of AITUC, Shri Alok Agarwal of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Shri Sunil of Kisan Adivasi Sanghathan, Tukarambhai from Dalit Jagrut Sanghathan, Badwani and other prominent activists of Madhya Pradesh people's organizations.

As speakers related the experiences of the Enron Power Project in Maharashtra on one hand, the problems and limitations of the Energy Sector Bill, 2001 and the disastrous unbundling of the Orissa State Electricity Board on the other, it became increasingly clear that the Indian power sector was being sought to be deliberately dismantled and destroyed by a set of unworkable prescriptions that have failed disastrously in some states of India and will only lead to disastrous results in Madhya Pradesh as well. Analysing the power situation in Madhya Pradesh and its impact on the common people of Madhya Pradesh , the assembled people concluded that the cost of power has been deliberately raised in the state since the last one year, and the energy crisis has been deliberately created so as to put the MP energy sector in the hands of the private and foreign utilities and institutions. The assembled activists and organizations resolved to run a state- wide movement against this. They asserted that it would be the people of Madhya Pradesh and not ADB and World Bank who will determine the future course of the state's power sector.

The meeting was opened by Shri Sunil of Kisan Adivasi Sangathan , Hoshangabad. In the morning session, Shri Prabir Purkayastha spoke on the adverse impact of the Electricity Bill, 2001 and how the state decision making structures , institutions and processes are being replaced in order to facilitate the complete private sector takeover of electricity sector. He said that in a poor country like India the total privatisation of the power sector that is being sought by the multilateral institutions could not be productive. Abhay Mehta related the experience of Enron brought to light the total failure of the model of electricity generation through private promoters. He described the suicidal nature of the Power Purchase agreement that the Enron company had undertaken with the Maharashtra state government, an agreement that was against public interest and common sense, and how finally the essential non- viability of these Projects and the enormous financial burden that it has put on the state of Maharashtra running into thousands of crores of rupees every year has now caused the MSEB to stop withdrawing electricity from the Phase I of the Dabhol Project since May, 2001 and has led to the stoppage of construction on the Phase II of the Project mid way.

Chittaroopa Palit, activist with the Narmada Bachao Andolan active in the struggle against the Maheshwar Hydro-Electric Project in the Narmada valley said the Enron story is being repeated in Madhya Pradesh. She said that as per the PPA signed between the Madhya Pradesh government and S.Kumars, they were to be paid Rs. 600 crores per year for the next 35 years whether or not the power could be produced or sold! As a result, the power to be produced in privatized Maheshwar Project would be over Rs. 6 per kWh and would thus be prohibitively expensive. She said that following the struggle of the people of the Maheshwar area, many foreign companies had to leave the Project. However, it was a matter of concern that even after it has come to light that the S.Kumars have drawn and defaulted on crores of rupees from Indian financial institutions and from the Madhya Pradesh state agencies, the Madhya Pradesh government is considering putting equity into the Project.

Tukarambhai from Dalit Jagrit Adivasi Sanghathan, Badwani and Bhuru Bhai of Ekta Parishad, Dhar said the behaviour of the Madhya Pradesh government with the poor, the adivasis and the farmers of this state was callous in the extreme, and that it evoked the atmosphere of the British Raj rather than what anyone could hope to experience in Independent India. He said that this year the rains had failed and the crops had dried up for the third year running. The wells were dry but the cost of power for the pumps attached to these dry wells had been increased and were now so high, that there was no possibility of paying them at all. But the government was now threatening that the farmers's fields would be auctioned and sold to pay for the bills.

He said that the claim of the government that they would take care of the small farmer was completely hollow. Any family who may well be under the poverty line but who owned more than 1 hectares of land was not entitled to electricity concessions any more, that is a family that had an income of less than Rs. 250 per month was being expected to pay Rs. 300 per month in bills !!

Phagram of Kisan Adivasi Sanghathan and Mangal Singh of Shramik Adivasi Sanghathan said that as a result of government's policies ,the 39% of the population who have had access to electricity would lose it, and the 69% of the people who have had no access whatsoever would now never have any hope of ever receiving it. People from all over the state pointed out how they were receiving false bills or inordinately high bills or bills for connections that were already cut. The entire economy of the state would be destroyed.

Alok Agarwal of the Narmada Bachao Andolan said since the last one year, Madhya Pradesh has been reeling under power crisis. Power has become very unreliable, there are frequent power cuts, the cost of electricity has gone up and almost all electricity concessions for the farmers and the poor have been stopped since the beginning of this year. He said that despite a surplus of electricity existing in many parts the country, and the fact that the NTPC has offered the MP govt. unlimited power at Rs. 1.65 per kWh, and Chattisgarh has offered power at Rs. 2.40 per kWh and power was also available from Punjab and some other states, the Madhya Pradesh government has deliberately not drawn electricity in order to create shortage and chaos in the state, and to increase the cost of electricity.

He said that world-wide the markets for multinational power equipment manufacturers had shrunk and now they were eyeing countries like India for their survival. It was clear that it would only be lucrative for them to invest in India if the tariffs were remunerative, and the whole proposed exercise of trifurcation and the privatization of the power sector was towards ensuring these multinational markets. He said that this was amply clear from the emphasis on "international shopping" in the ADB loan. He said that the real priority was to control theft and T& D losses and increase the T&D infrastructure, as well as collect outstanding dues from municipalities and such, which would lead to a resolution of the present crisis. Rather than this, the Madhya Pradesh government was promoting Projects like Maheshwar that would produce power at over Rs. 6 per unit when it could not and would not buy power at even Rs. 2.20 per unit. Madhuri of Dalit Jagrut Adivasi Sanghathan, M.L.Chowkse from the Bijli Karamchari Union, Chittaroopa Palit of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Shraddha of Ekta Parishad, Aniruddha from Kisan Sangharsh Samiti , Multai and Mahendra Bajpeyi of AITUC spoke at the strategy session at the end. All organizations agreed that there was no way out except to take the issue to the common people and mobilize them against the anti-people energy policies of the MP government.

The organisations agreed to hold an intensive campaign on the power issue for the next few months all over the state. The organizations demanded that there must be a roll back in the tariff increase in the state and that the Madhya Pradesh government must withdraw from disastrous Projects like Maheshwar before it destroyed the economy of the state. Reacting strongly to the loan taken by the MP government from the ADB that was passed last fortnight in Manila, they demanded that the Madhya Pradesh government should desist from taking loans from the ADB nor should it dismantle or privatize the State electricity Board. They demanded that instead of determining its policies at the instance of multilateral agencies such as WB and ADB that have together damaged the power sector in almost all third world countries of the world, the state government must establish its accountability to the people and respond to the swelling public debate in the state with full disclosures. The decisions about how to fulfill the energy needs of the people of this state must be taken on our own land, not in closed offices in Manila.

Anurag Modi, Jan Sangharsh Morcha
Mahendra Vajpeyi, AITUC, Madhya Pradesh
M.L.Chowkse, Vidyut Karamchari Janata Union