Jan Sangarsh Morcha Press Release
  08 November 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Invitation to "Bijli Bachao - Azadi Bachao Yatra", 15th to 30th November, 2002 in Madhya Pradesh against anti-people, Asia Development Bank inspired power sector reforms in Madhya Pradesh

Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-33162
Email: nobigdam@sancharnet.in SHRAMIK ADIVASI SANGATHAN
Near Bohra Masjid, Betul, MP
Tel: 07141-33971

Dear friends,

Massive Electricity tariff hike in Madhya Pradesh proposed at the instance of the Asia Development Bank : Impending destruction

On the 11th of September 2002, the Madhya Pradesh government filed a tariff increase petition before the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission. This action of tariff filing is in compliance with the conditions of a Rs. 720 crore loan agreement executed with the Asia Development Bank in November 2002 that required that a petition to increase tariffs should be filed by the MPSEB before the disbursement of each instalment of the loan. The first instalment of the loan was released after a tariff hike of 20% that was effected last year.

The hike in electricity tariffs proposed for the various categories of consumers in Madhya Pradesh in the current petition are massive, incomprehensible, and seems to be designed to pulverize the entire economy of Madhya Pradesh. The proposal envisages a 300% to 600% increase in the tariffs for farmers, 50% increase for power loom producers, electricity tariffs up to Rs. 4 per unit for all classes of electricity consumers including those below the poverty line, and upto Rs. 5.75 per unit for shopkeepers and commercial users. If this tariff hike is accepted by the Regulatory Commission, it is clear that the farmers and workers of Madhya Pradesh will be pauperized, traders will be wiped out, small and medium industries and power loom workers will collapse and domestic consumers will not be able to withstand this tariff shock, plunging thousands of homes into darkness.

Failure of reforms, consumers as victims

Even a cursory analysis of the second tariff petition filed by the state government reveals that if the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board had only complied with the orders given by the Regulatory Commission last year, and had brought down the transmission and distribution losses from 51% to 42% , improved the efficiency of the plant to a modest 71%, as well as recovered large debts over a Rs. 1000 crores, over 90% of which is with large industrial consumers, they would have been able to raise Rs. 3000 crores of revenue and there would be no need for this proposed tariff hike which seeks to raise an additional revenue of Rs. 999 crores, at all.

As per the Clause 31 of the Madhya Pradesh Vidyut Sudhar Adhiniyam,2001(Madhya Pradesh Power Reforms Act, 2001) the orders of the Madhya Pradesh Regulatory Commission are final and binding on the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board. Therefore it is amply clear that the non-compliance of the MPSEB in not meeting its orders regarding debt recovery, plant efficiency and T&D losses is in flagrant contempt of the Regulatory Commission. In fact, no less than the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has commented in its recent report of 2001 that there have been losses totaling almost Rs. 70 crores in the various stores belonging to the MPSEB. It is clear that the losses that have resulted from this non-compliance cannot be thrust upon the consumer in the shape of increased electricity tariffs.

The Jan Sangharsh Morcha demands

It is in this context that the Jan Sangharsh Morcha demands that the current anti-people tariff petition filed before the Madhya Pradesh Regulatory Commission should be immediately withdrawn and the MPSEB should be compelled to comply with the previous orders of the MPSERC to improve its performance. The Jan Sangharsh Morcha has also demanded that the loan agreement executed by the Madhya Pradesh government with the Asia Development Bank through the aegis of the Central government must immediately be scrapped. The so-called power sector reforms must be stopped and real and positive changes in the power sector must be effected after wide consultation with the common people of Madhya Pradesh.

Struggle against these Asia Development Bank sponsored proposed tariff hikes begins

Strong protests against this tariff petition proposed by the Madhya Pradesh government have already begun. On the 26th October, last month 15,000 people gathered to oppose this tariff hike proposal under the aegis of the Malwa- Nimad Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan at Mandleshwar. On the 26th of November itself, hundreds of tribals from Dhar district demonstrated against these proposed hikes. On the 27th of October, 5000 adivasis and peasants with the Adivasi Mukti Sangathan demonstrated against this proposal. Farmers from the rural area of Indore division alone filed 1304 objections in front of the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission. During the public hearing, on the 29th of October, 1500 farmers raised their voices against the proposal in front of the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Regulatory Commission. On the 31st of October, Jan Sangharsh Morcha held a meeting at Rewa, the headquarters of the Rewa division, and on the 1st of November at Jabalpur , the center of the Jabalpur division, and on the 6th of November at Bhopal. Consequently, preparations are on to make informed interventions in the public hearings to be held by the MPSERC at Rewa, Jabalpur and Bhopal in the coming week.

Intensifying the struggle, Invitation to the yatras

The Jan Sangharsh Morcha intends to intensify this struggle in the coming days by organizing "Bijli Bachao - Azadi Bachao yatras" from the 15th to 30th November 2002 all through Madhya Pradesh. These yatras will articulate the popular protest against the electricity tariff hike proposed by the Madhya Pradesh government as well as expose the designs of the Asia Development Bank behind these the power sector reforms being brought into Madhya Pradesh by the state and Central governments. These yatras will culminate with a massive rally in Bhopal on the 30th of November. Please note that the Regulatory Commission is slated to give its tariff order by the 30th of November.

This yatra will ensue from Indore and will travel through Dewas, Ujjain, Ratlam, Dhar, Badwani, Khargone, Khandwa, Harda, Betul, and Hoshangabad to reach Bhopal on the 30th of November. The other yatra will travel through Balaghat, Dindori, Mandla, Seoni, Chindwada, Narsinghpur to reach Jabalpur. Programs will also be held in the remaining districts of Madhya Pradesh. Farmers, workers and the common people of Madhya Pradesh will demand the withdrawal of anti-people petition through these yatras.

These reforms in the power sector in Madhya Pradesh that seek to corporatize and privatize this hitherto state owned power sector and the MPSEB, and transform electricity from a fundamental development right of people in a welfare economy to a new business pasture for transnational corporations seeking to maximize profits do not stand alone. Unbundling of the MPSEB into five entities - one for generation, one for transmission and three for distribution has already taken place. In Madhya Pradesh and all over India, it is accompanied by similar measures for the privatization and globalisation in every sector of the economy, large-scale resource alienation, enclosure of the commons and an attempt to establish global corporate rule through the World Trade Organisation and other allied forums.

It is clear enough that the two large political parties in this country are in consensus with multilateral institutions such as the ADB and the World Bank about the various anti- people reform agendas being foisted on the common populace. Therefore it is farmers, workers, small tradespeople, self employed people who will have to come together to forge broad based alliances to unmask the designs behind these "reforms", and to wage popular struggles against them.

We invite you to be part of this yatra/s and this struggle to challenge the destruction of our livelihoods and the pulverization of our economy. Please find enclosed the time-table of the yatra. We hope you will be able to spend a few days with us during the yatra. We would also be deeply grateful if you can make some financial contributions, and/or write about the issues involved, or contribute in any other way in order to prevent the ADB and the Madhya Pradesh government from effecting this destructive tariff hike.

Time table of the Bijli Bachao - Azadi Bachao Yatra

15th November : Indore 16th November : Dewas, Ujjain 17th November : Nagda, Ratlam 18th November : Dhar, Manawar, Singhana 19th November : Badwani, Anjad 20th November : Kasrawad, Bedia 21st November : Barwah 22nd November : Khargone 23rd November : Burhanpur 24th November : Khandwa, Khirkia 25th November : Harda, Seoni-Malwa 26th November : Timarni, Chicholi, Betul 27th November : Multai, Shahpur, Sarani 28th November : Sukhtawa, Itarsi 29th November : Piparia, Hoshangabad 30th November : Rally at Bhopal

The details of the Jabalpur yatra will be sent later.

In solidarity,

Chittaroopa Palit
Jagdish Patidar
Alok Agarwal