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Privatisation of 11 distribution companies: Electricity workers hold rallies across country

National

January 26, 2021

Lahore: Thousands of electricity workers held protest rallies Monday all over the country under the aegis of All Pakistan Wapda Hydroelectric Workers Union (CBA) against the proposed privatisation of 11 electricity distribution companies and profitable thermal power houses Guddu, Nandipur, the proposed closure of Muzaffargarh, Faisalabad, Jamshoro, Lakhra, Kotri thermal power houses against the public interest.

The protest rallies were held all over the country including Quetta, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Rahim Yar Khan, DG Khan, Multan, Sahiwal, Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Islamabad, Swat, Peshawar and other cities. In Lahore, thousands of electricity/Wapda workers held a mass protest rally in front of the Punjab Assembly carrying national flags and banners in support of their demands and shouted slogans ‘long live Pakistan’ and ‘down with the proposed privatisation, IMF, capitalism and feudalism’.

Khurshid Ahmad general secretary of the union, addressing the rally urged the prime minister to review the proposed privatisation of electricity distribution companies and profitable thermal power houses which had been decided by the cabinet committee to privatise. Since the experience of privatisation of Karachi Electric Supply Company failed miserably despite federal government financing KESC for Rs1300 billion during these years. He pointed out that Wapda had to take over control of private electricity companies of Multan and Rawalpindi in 1980 on the demand of their citizens, since they failed to provide electricity even in the cities.

He said the government was making 50% to 60% capacity payment worth billions of rupees to 41 independent private power houses. Circular debt had increased from Rs184 billion from 2013 to Rs860 billion in 2020 while more than 500,000 persons accused of electricity theft have not been punished despite the lodging of 46,000 FIRs, he added. Field workers of electricity have been dying and have sustained critical injuries in the absence of security.

He said it is the responsibility of the state under Article 9 of the Constitution to provide basis amenities such as electricity and water to the nation. That is why Quaid-i-Azam declared that those public entities would be run under public sector. He urged the prime minister to introduce reforms, stop heavy capacity payment to the IPPs and provide safety to the field staff against criminals to prevent electricity theft instead of privatising public utilities and raising power tariff.

Through a resolution the union demanded from the government to hold mutual dialogue with the union urgently in accordance with the law and check price-hike in essential commodities, raise the wages and pension of the workers which had not been raised for the last one and half years, regularize services, save the workers from tragic accidents on account of serious shortage of staff.

These are workers with distribution companies that have been supplying electricity to almost 30 million industrial, commercial, agricultural and domestic consumers. If the government fails to hold dialogue with the union, the workers would be forced to go on a long march to Islamabad, he added.