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OpinionsKerala rejects Centre’s Smart Meter Scheme

Kerala rejects Centre’s Smart Meter Scheme


State against Coop Societies Act Amendment too

By P. Sreekumaran

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government in the State has said an emphatic ‘No' to the total expenditure (TOTEX) model for the rollout of pre-paid smart electricity meters in the State.

The State Government has also vehemently opposed the amendments to the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act accusing the Union Government of trying to dismantle the country's federal system through these amendments.

The decision not to implement the TOTEX model and opt for a cost-effective model was taken at a meeting called by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

An alternative proposal will be developed by the Kerala State Electricity Board(KSEB). Under the proposal, the KSEB will develop the software for billing and allied services for the smart meter project. The Kerala Fibre Optic Network (K-FON) will be used for the communication system necessary for the project.  The Data Centre of the KSEB will stock the data.  The decision to equip 37 lakh consumers with prepaid smart meters in the first phase has been dropped. Only the industrial and commercial consumers of the KSEB, who number less than three lakh, will be equipped with the meters.

Smart meter roll-out is a component of the Centrally-assisted Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme. When the tender application for the project was opened on June 15, three private firms participated, with the lowest quote amounting to Rs 3,475.16 crore.  This would have resulted in consumers paying Rs 9,500 per smart meter.

The Board had planned to implement the project for 37 lakh consumers in the initial stage. However, the plan had been abandoned following stiff opposition from the Left and Congress-backed trade unions in the KSEB. The employees' organisations have opposed the scheme on the ground that it would pave the way for privatization. Their contention was that the concerns of the TUs had not been addressed by the Power Ministry. CITU general secretary Elamaram Kareem said the Kerala KSEB should have immediately scrapped the tender process citing legal issues once it realized that the smart meter would cost close to Rs 9,500, when the base value set up by the Board was Rs 6,000. Out of the 1.35 crore consumers in the State, around 50 lakh are poor and cannot afford to set up the smart meter.  The alternative before the State Government is to abandon the TOTEX model and instead go for the developed by the C-DAC, which can be implemented by the PSUs, claimed Kareem.

Moreover, the CPI(M) Polit Bureau had taken a strong stand, following the request of trade unions like the CITU,  against the implementation of the project saying that it would impose an unbearable burden on the poor and farmers. The PB statement said many states had been forced to implement the project and withdraw from the responsibility of power distribution and hand it over to private companies for profit maximization.  This will impose an unbearable burden on the poor and farmers. Therefore, the project should be scrapped immediately.

As for the Cooperative Societies Act amendment, Kerala stated that the Supreme Court had unequivocally said that cooperation is a state subject under Entry 32 of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.  The Union Government is now trying to overcome the legal setback by going in for the latest amendments and bypass the apex court's verdict.

Kerala's minister for cooperation V N Vasavan accused the Union Government of including provisions under which even statutory societies functioning under the State cooperative registrar can be abolished and converted into multi-state societies. Any cooperative society can be converted into a multi-state society by a decision of the governing body meeting and by a majority vote in the general body meeting. To make this process easier, the condition that the state registration must have been cancelled before becoming a multi-state association has been omitted and the condition that it will be cancelled naturally has been included.

Kerala also apprehends that the society will be forced to use its assets and income on the directions of the Union Government or big corporate investors. This would greatly affect assistance to the common people and make the cooperatives out of their reach.

The unkindest cut is that the amendments will defeat the primary purpose of cooperatives to function as local economic resource that anyone can rely on at any time.  These institutions will embrace a work akin to the new generation banks that operate only for profits.

That is exactly why the apex court took a favourable stand towards the states. It blocked the Union Government's move when it became evident that it was violative of the principles of federalism.

(IPA Service)




The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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