After facing opposition for over a year against privatising power distribution across Haryana, discoms may finally be bracing for the move, which aims to augment maintenance and operations while cutting down aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses.
Aggrieved employees opposing the move — handover to private firms is likely to result in their dismissal — told TOI the power discoms have gone ahead with the proposal, dating back to FY 2006-07, when the government decided to emulate states like Delhi, Mumbai and Gujarat, where privatisation has been successful.
Discom officials, though, denied they were being “privatised”, wary of the potential backlash it might spark, especially when worker unions were threatening strikes. Instead, they claimed the department was going to “outsource” maintenance and operations to private firms.
The decision, officials said, was proposed in FY 2006-07, soon after similar action took off with flying colours in cities like Delhi, where distribution was handed over to private players, with Reliance Infrastructure and Tata Power taking the lead.
Post privatisation, which began in 2002, loss reduction in Delhi was brought down from 45% to 5%, while cumulative savings peaked at Rs 30,000 crore in the first 10 years. Haryana government sought to take a cue from this, officials claimed. But opposition from union workers threw a spanner in the works. But now, power discoms seem eager to expedite the process.
On December 7, five days after 178 of them had been intimated about their sackings, the union held demonstrations. To assuage their concerns, the government said none of them would be laid off. “We have called off the strike for now, as the department has agreed to our demands and they will not sack anybody,” said Devi Singh, member of All Haryana Power Corporation Workers Union. “We’re all for better power maintenance but not at the expense of workers losing their jobs.”
Even on Wednesday, union workers sought meetings with senior power officials, expressing their dismay over the project. However, a senior official confirmed to TOI on Tuesday that employees who exceed the sanctioned strength will have to go.
The “outsourcing” is taking place in all 23 of Haryana’s sub-divisions on trial basis. Though the trial will run only in one or two sub-divisions in each circle, it will span all five sub-divisions in Gurgaon circle, including Sohna road, Sector 18 Maruti, DLF City, South City and Badshapur.
“We’re not privatising. Only operations and maintenance of lines are being given to a firm on trial basis. The government will decide what to do with it after that,” an official involved in the project told TOI. He, however, stopped short of confirming exactly what the government would do, after the trials have run successfully. “I can’t comment on that,” he said cryptically.
The privatisation is likely to benefit consumers, said a former official of HERC, wishing anonymity. “If, for example, some lines break down or a snag develops, the operators will make sure repairmen reach there in real time to check the issue,” he said. “They will do proper numbering of electricity poles, and glitches will be closely monitored.”
The move will also curtail line losses across the state. Gurgaon, where the trial will run across all five sub-divisions, suffers only 10-15% in transmission and distribution losses, among the lowest in the state. The Gurgaon trails will incur a cost of up to Rs 52 lakh, an official added. Malcom Brown Authentic Jersey