JSEB’s Singhbhum area office in Bistupur
Jamshedpur, Jan. 12: Around 3,500 employees of the Jharkhand State Electricity Board (JSEB) will go on a three-day strike from January 22 — a move that may plunge the entire state into darkness — to protest against the recent unbundling of the power utility into four entities.
Called by Jharkhand Rajya Bijli Kamgar Union, the largest Left-supported organisation of power employees, the strike is likely to affect domestic consumers, small and big industries, besides mines and railways.
Also, the strike may hit the board’s revenue collections, which generally gain momentum in the last two weeks of every month.
State general secretary of the union Ram Krishna Singh told The Telegraph they decided on the strike as they felt this move by the state power board would not benefit anyone, including JSEB employees and consumers.
“The power board and the state energy minister (Rajendra Prasad Singh) had promised that the government would ensure that employees’ interests were not hurt. But, they did not fulfil their promises. The notification with regard to unbundling of the JSEB was issued on January 6. We strongly oppose the move as it will result in a hike in electricity tariffs and general consumers will be the ultimate sufferers,” Singh said.
Singh said they would hold protests and take out processions against the unbundling in different areas, including Ranchi, Daltonganj, Hazaribagh and Deoghar, in the coming days.
Notably, the state cabinet on December 30 last year approved the unbundling of the JSEB into four separate entities, a decade after The Electricity Act (2003) had mandated all Indian states to separate production and distribution activities and streamline power supply to make the sector profitable.
On January 6, the state government issued a notification, making the formal announcement about the JSEB’s split.
A holding company and three subsidiaries were formed.
Besides holding company Jharkhand Vidyut Vikas Nigam Limited, the three subsidiaries with specific functions included Jharkhand Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (for generation), Jharkhand Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited (for distribution) and Jharkhand Vidyut Sancharan Nigam Limited (for transmission).
“We have already sent a notice to chairman-cum-managing director (CMD) of the holding company S.N. Verma, informing him about the proposed stir. If our demand is not met, we may go for an indefinite strike after January 24,” union general secretary Singh said.
Singh added that they wanted a tripartite agreement among the state government, the power board and the employees’ union to guarantee that the service conditions, including pension and other facilities, of the employees wouldn’t change even after the unbundling.
According to the union’s deputy general secretary K.N. Singh, apart from the JSEB split, there are a number of other demands that have prompted the employees to go on the warpath.
Regularisation of 200 Grade IV employees, who are graduates, as well as those who work as daily-wagers feature prominently on their wish list.
Singh said the board had promised to promote graduate Grade IV employees to Grade III, but to no avail.
The union has also been demanding the regularisation of some 3,000 contractual workers.
The union is also vehemently opposed to the private franchisee model.
The state power utility had already appointed Tata Power Limited and Calcutta Electricity Supply Corporation (CESC) as franchisees for its prestigious Jamshedpur and Ranchi areas, respectively. The franchisees may take over distribution from April.