Jan Sangharsh Morcha
Press Release

  04 November 2004
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Electricity Regulatory Commission denies farmers full opportunity of public hearing ;
Hundreds of farmers demonstrate at Bhopal

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464
Email: badwani@narmada.org

Jan Sangharsh Morcha
Convenors: Narmada Bachao Andolan, Jail Road, Mandleshwar, Dt. Khargone, M.P.
Shramik Adivasi Sangathan, Kothi Bazaar, Betul,M.P.

Nimad Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan
Village Nandra,
Tehsil Maheshwar,
Dt. Khargone, M.P.
Phone : (0) 9425056802/(0) 9425087827

Hundreds of farmers demonstrate at Bhopal demanding lower electricity tariffs : ďState will not allowed to be enslaved at the behest of Asia Development BankĒ

Today on the 4th of November 2004, the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Regulatory Commission organized a public hearing on the MPSEB petition for proposed increase in agricultural tariff, as required under the Electricity Reforms Act. Hundreds of farmers associated with the Nimad Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan and Jan Sangharsh Morcha came to Bhopal to take part in the public hearing but because of the lack of space and time, only a few farmers were allowed to take part in the hearing. The rest of the farmers demonstrated outside the MPSERC office. The farmers demanded that instead of further increases in electricity tariffs, the current electricity tariffs must be decreased to rates prevalent in 2000-2001. The farmers demanded that the attempt of the Asia Development Bank to enslave the people of Madhya Pradesh and to dictate all its policies must be stopped forwith. A delegation of farmerís representatives also met the Governor of Madhya Pradesh in this context and gave a Memorandum.

It may be noted that the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board has filed a petition in front of the MPSERC demanding electricity tariff hikes of 44% for the farmers and 26% for the domestic consumers. In addition, the MPSEB had also asked that they be allowed to recover the outstanding losses of Rs. 550 crores in the years 2003 and 2004 automatically in the next 5 years through the creation of regulatory assets. It may also be noted that the MPSERC had increased the electricity tariffs in agriculture by 600% last year.

Nearly 850 written objections (on affidavit and in eight copies each as per legal requirement) had been filed by farmers associated with the Nimad Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan and Jan Sangharsh Morcha in the last one month against this tariff increase. Out of these 500 farmers traveled to Bhopal with much difficulty to speak at the public hearing, but were denied the opportunity due to lack of space and time. Obviously all legal requirements are for the consumers, and not for the MPSERC. Consequently hundreds of farmers demonstrated outside the MPSERC. Shri Alok Agarwal, speaking on behalf of the Jan Sangharsh Morcha and Nimad Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan stated that the tariff increases were clear conditionalities of the Asia Development Bank. It is because of these conditions that the MPSEB is now being corporatised and unbundled and will be subsequently privatized. The impact of this will be disastrous as the rising tariffs will lead to stoppage of irrigation, and stop to agriculture and related livelihoods as well as a threat to the sovereignty and the food security of our country. He said that had T&D losses been decreased as per the first Tariff order, the MPSEB would have saved Rs. 2000 crores. Had the bills of the HT, industrial consumers and government departments been recovered, MPSEB could have been in profits and decreased the electricity tariffs rather than raising them.

Shri Lokendra Dhangar, farmer from Badwani pointed out that the electricity tariffs in Madhya Pradesh are the highest in the country. Therefore the need of the hour was not to raise but to decrease them.vShri Jagdish Patidar, farmer from Khargone district said that the detailed paying capacity study done by the Nimad Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan showed that all categories of farmers are in debt and that there is a deficit rather than a surplus in agriculture. Therefore as per the Clause 26(5) of the Electricity Reforms Act, the rates must be decreased.

Shri Mansharam Jat and Shri Devendra Singh, farmers from District Dhar said the petition must be available to everybody in intelligible language and that the hearings must be conducted in a decentralized manner, only then will the situation and the voices of the consumers become clear. Otherwise the full process of public hearing will become a farce. Farmers from the other districts also demanded that the tariff levels be brought back to 2000-2001 levels and the permission for the creation of regulatory assets to redeem the losses of the MPSEB to be recovered in the next 5 years not be allowed.

The speakers pointed out that it is the ADB and DFID reforms and disconnections policy that led to the recent death of 4 patients in the Bhind government hospital where the electricity had been severed suddenly due to non-payment of bills. The state government and the ADB and the World Bank must take full responsibility for these deaths.

After the public hearing was over the farmers took out a rally from Tinshed area through the streets of Bhopal up to the Chief Ministerís residence and submitted a Memorandum for the Chief Minister asking that the electricity tariffs brought back to 2000-2001 levels, taxes on agricultural investments be reduced and repression taking place on the adivasis in the forests of Madhya Pradesh and the eviction and dispossession of homes and lands be stopped. Prior to this, in the morning, a delegation of farmerís representatives met the Governor Shri Balram Jhakad and briefing him about the current status of the farmers in the state demanded that the ADB sponsored so-called power sector reforms in Madhya Pradesh that was leading to tariff increases be immediately stopped. The farmers also demanded stoppage of unbundling and privatization of the power sector slated for January 2005, stoppage of imports of agricultural commodities so that the farmers may get remunerative prices, relief of farmerís debts, stoppage of compound rates of interest to farmers and extension of loans to farmers at 4 % rate of interest.

The Nimad Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan and the Jan Sangharsh Morcha warned the State government that if despite the farmers objections, the electricity rates are increased any further, they would launch a state wide movement.

Alok Agarwal
Lokendra Dhangar
Jagdish Patidar
Devendra Singh
Bhagwan Mukati Rupsingh Bhai