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Left threatens to blow power act fuse

New Delhi, Dec. 10: The Left parties have served an ultimatum to the United Progressive Alliance government to review the Electricity Act, 2003 within the next two months, failing which electricity workers will go on a nationwide strike.

Thousands of electricity employees today took out a protest rally here demanding a halt to the disbanding of state electricity boards and the privatising of electricity generation, transmission and distribution.

'I am writing to the Prime Minister, informing him of the rally and telling him about the resolution adopted, which gives the government two months to scrap the electricity act,' said CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan.

'We demand that the 2003 electricity act be immediately reviewed. If need be the act should be scrapped in the interest of the country,' the resolution stated.

Two months ago, Left parties had raised the issue at a UPA-Left co-ordination committee meeting. 'Since then nothing has happened,' said Bardhan. In fact, dismantling of state electricity boards is going on at a rapid pace. 'Electricity workers in Uttar Pradesh are waging a fight against privatisation of electricity boards,' said Bardhan.

The trend is the same in Maharashtra.

The common minimum programme assures a review of the electricity act but according to Left leaders, the power ministry has 'dismissed all talk of any review of the act'. The government has reluctantly agreed to review the act but there does not appear any possibility of it being scrapped.

Left parties insist that power be made available at an affordable rate to all sections of society. 'Electricity development has to correct large regional imbalances that exist in the country,' said the Left.

Till now, the UPA government has not given any positive response to the Left. For instance, the issue of increase in foreign direct investment in telecom and insurance is still in a limbo. The government and the Left have exchanged notes and counter-notes but the finance minister has not reversed any decision.

Similarly, the government has not increased the interest rate of provident fund from 8.5 per cent to 9.5 per cent as demanded by the Left. Recently, a new flank of controversy was opened on the national employment guarantee bill. While the Left has drilled holes in the draft bill prepared by the rural development ministry, members of the National Advisory Council have alleged that critical areas of its draft have been diluted.

Left leaders say they have one weapon in their armoury ' to step up pressure on the government. The question of political action is ruled out as the Left maintains there is no question of pulling down the government.

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