Left prevails, power subsidy will stay in amended Bill

New Delhi, Nov 21 | Updated: Nov 22 2005, 06:45am hrs
The final amendments to the Electricity Act 2003 seek to give a quiet burial to the original plan of eliminating cross-subsidies. They have also made it mandatory for the Centre to share the burden of providing electricity to rural India.

The Cabinet is expected to clear the amendments shortly given the seriousness imparted to it by the Prime Ministers Office. In a October 29 letter to the ministry, the PMO said, The note relating to amendments may be brought to the Cabinet by mid-November positively.

The final Cabinet note alongwith the draft Electricity Amendment Bill 2005 was forwarded by the power ministry to the Cabinet secretariat on November 16.

At present, Section 6 of the Act says, The appropriate government shall endeavour to supply electricity to all areas including villages and hamlets. It has been amended to read, Both the Centre and states would jointly endeavour to provide electricity access to all areas including villages and hamlets through rural electricity infrastructure and electrification of households.

The concern expressed by the Left parties and some states on Section 6 of the Act was that the onus of providing electricity supply to rural areas was put only on states and that the Centre must chip in.

POWER PLAY

RURAL POWER
Centre must chip in for providing power in rural areas
SUBSIDIES
Subsidies will be reduced gradually and not eliminated
THEFT
Offences made cognizable; police empowered to probe

Another major amendment relates to existing provisions in various sections (38, 39, 40, 42, 61, 178 and 181) of the Act dealing with reduction and elimination of cross subsidies. The section has been amended to delete elimination of cross-subsidies and replace it with reduction of cross-subsidies.

Lastly, Section 151 of the Act has been amended to clarify that the police would be able to investigate cognizable offences (theft of electricity, electricity lines and interference of meters) under the Act.

However, no prosecution shall be instituted for any offence under the Act except at the instance of the appropriate government/commission.