Following assurances from Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis that the companies will not be privatised and that employees’ welfare will be protected “at all costs,” employees and contractual workers of state power companies MSEDCL, Mahagenco, and Mahatransco called off their strike on Wednesday.
32 organisations that represent the employees met with Fadnavis, who is in charge of the energy portfolio, to address their requests. The workers had engaged in a three-day walkout in opposition to the private company Adani Electricity’s request for a parallel licence from the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission for power distribution (MERC).
“Let me be very clear: There is no discussion of privatising any power company,” I said. Contrarily, the state government has proposed spending Rs. 55,000 crore in these businesses over the next 3 years. “The minister told us that the government will file its protest in the MERC against Adani seeking licence for electricity distribution,” said Mohan Sharma, the president of the Maharashtra State Electricity Workers’ Federation.
The three state-run electricity companies would also receive a fund around Rs 55,000 crore to help them become stronger and more effective. Additionally, the request for the hiring of 40,000 contract workers under a special programme was approved. As a result, the strike was suspended. Sharma claimed that Fadnavis had promised that no retaliation would be brought against workers for taking part in the strike.
While terming the strike as an outcome of ‘miscommunication’, Fadnavis, addressing the media, said, ‘The employees’ unions told us that states like Odisha and Delhi have allowed privatisation in power sector. But we are not going to do that.’
Another issue which was raised during the meeting was related to the state government’s decision to set up an agriculture company.
‘The purpose of the agriculture company is to provide a mechanism to assess the electricity used along with financial implications in the sector. At present, there is no system to ascertain the financial burden. Often, whenever there are losses, it is attributed to the agriculture sector. So, some factual assessment is necessitated to make the companies more efficient and accountable,’ Fadnavis said.
Reassuring the unions about accommodating contract workers, Fadnavis said, ‘As a special case, we will consider their age relaxation and also put in place a system to ensure they receive their rightful
contract workers, Fadnavis said, ‘As a special case, we will consider their age relaxation and also put in place a system to ensure they receive their rightful wages.’
The state power companies had called a strike from Wednesday against Adani Electricity seeking a parallel power distribution licence for Bhandup, Mulund, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kharghar, Uran and Taloja of Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). Commenting on day 1 of the strike, Union president Sharma said, ‘The strike was successful and seven power supply units were shut across the state. If the strike would have continued for another day, the state would have witnessed power cuts. However, there was no intention to trouble people through this strike. We were left with no option but to call a strike in order to reach out to the government.’ For its part, Maharashtra State Electricity
Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) – popularly known as Mahavitaran – had kept private agencies on standby mode for operation and management of electricity distribution services in view of the strike. The strike, which began midnight, affected power supply in several districts across Maharashtra, adversely impacting farmers in rural parts of the state besides hospitals and water supply in a few areas.