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An Assessment: The Electricity Act, 2003 vs. The Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020

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Introduction to the Electricity Act, 2003  

The Electricity Act, 2003 is an Act of the Parliament of India and was enacted to transform India’s power sector. The Act encompasses major issue like distribution, generation and trading in power. The key features of the Act are:

  • Any generating company may establish, operate and maintain a generating station without obtaining a license under this Act, with the only exception that it should comply with the technical standards relating to connectivity with the grid.
  • No person shall:
    1. transmit electricity; or
    2. distribute electricity; or
    3. undertake trading in electricity, unless he is authorised to do so by a license issued, exceptions are informed by authorised commissions through notifications.
  • The Central Government may make region-wise demarcation of the country and from time to time make such modifications therein as it may consider necessary for the efficient, economic and integrated transmission and supply of electricity, and in particular to facilitate voluntary inter-connections and co-ordination of facilities for the inter-State, regional and inter-regional generation and transmission of electricity.
  • Setting up State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) has been made mandatory.
  • Central government to prepare National Electricity Policy and Tariff Policy. Central Electricity Authority (CEA) to prepare National Electricity Plan.

The Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020  

Electric pylons that carry the electricity harvested by
Representative Image. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Electricity Amendment Bill has been introduced to promote private players’ entry into the market in the generation, distribution, and transmission of electricity. According to some experts, the provisions of the Act had become archaic, and hence, this Amendment has been introduced with some policy modifications (Thakur & Chamariya, 2020).

Policy Amendments:

  • Renewable Energy: The Amendment, via an insertion, delegates the Central Government with the power to prepare and notify a National Renewable Energy Policy “for promotion of generation of electricity from renewable sources”, in consultation with State Governments.
  • Cross Border Trade: The Central Government has been delegated to prescribe rules and guidelines to allow and facilitate cross border trade of electricity.
  • Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority: This authority has been proposed to be given sole jurisdiction to adjudicate upon matters on the performance of obligations under a contract regarding sale, purchase and transmission of electricity, but,
  • Exclusion of this specialised authority’s jurisdiction on the determination of tariff or any other dispute regarding tariff.

Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the Various Viewpoints

The bill incorporates the National Renewable Energy Policy (NREP), which is likely to push the generation of electricity from renewable sources of energy and prescribe a minimum percentage of the purchase of electricity from renewable and hydro sources of energy. With more renewable energy incorporated into the generation mix, the Indian electricity sector would undergo a green transformation.

The existence of a National Electricity Policy and the existence of a separate NREP might create discontinuity within the overall thinking and approach. Rather than having two independent policies, the renewable energy policy would serve its purpose better being an integral part of the National Electricity Policy.

farmers protest
Framers, along with the three farm bills, also demand the scrapping of the Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020.

There are some opposing views as well. The All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) has raised some points regarding the Amendment. The States fear that it will affect their free power programs and work against the interest of farmers and poorer sections of the society. Some experts from the private and government sector think that the transfer of cash subsidy directly to farmers and domestic consumers’ accounts may not be practically possible as timely payments by the States cannot be guaranteed.

Soumya Dutta, MAUSAM, said that the whole focus of the amendment bill was very clearly to make electricity a commodity rather than a service. But according to Soumya, what also needs to be highlighted are questions like whether the country needs to produce as much electricity as the bill proposes, which sections of the society will be affected if the country goes for such productions and what will be the nature of the source of such energy productions. Soumya asserted that Hydropower was introduced in an electricity bill for the first time (Huque, 2020).

The other points that were not favouring the Electricity Amendment Bill were that privatisation would not eliminate costs. The franchisee selection would be made in a manner that might not favour the rural sector due to the low revenue and subsidies. It also shifts the state’s burden as cross-subsidies are removed, and the states might not have sufficient funds at all times. So, there are a lot of aspects that have to be reconsidered and discussed.

According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the opportunity cost of delaying India’s electricity sector is high. International investors need policy certainty and commitment from the Government of India. If this is built, it will increase the capital deployment in the renewable energy market (Shah, 2020).

Some general recommendations to improve the fluidity in the renewable energy sector are planning for transmission network expansion and modernisation and incorporating large-scale renewable energy hubs. It contradicts the opinions of many but striking a balance by improving domestic and international access to capital for large-scale and small renewable energy players would be beneficial for the people at large.

It is imperative for development to enhance economic efficiency, but it is also important to strike a balance between sustainable practices and developmental activities. The rural sector’s needs should also be kept in mind while providing them with sufficient opportunities to help them get better economically.

Purnima Tandon wrote this piece as part of Yugma Network’s renewable energy series. You can read more research papers here.

References  

  1. Huque, S. (2020, May 7). Withdrawal of Electricity Amendment Bill. Retrieved from Center for Financial Accountability.
  2. Shah, K. (2020, February). India’s Renewable Energy Policy Headwinds. Retrieved from Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
  3. Thakur, D. K., & Chamariya, P. (2020). The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020: An Overview. Economic Times.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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