Statement of the Maharashtra Regional Council of the Lok Raj Sangathan, December 2018

Citizens!

The Maharashtra State government has decided to privatize electricity distribution in the Kalwa-Mumbra zones. Besides electricity, the privatization of water distribution in Thane and a few other cities is under consideration as well. We need to unite and prevent the government from implementing these plans. Privatisation of public services is an anti-social plan, because its effects would be disastrous for us citizens, both users and workers. Why?

Look at the real life experience of the people of Bhiwandi and at other places where the privatisation of electricity distribution has been carried out:

  • Electricity rates soared, driving it out of reach of many users;
  • Users had to pay arbitrary high expenses for changing electricity meters;
  • Electricity meters run faster than the actual consumption;
  • Many got outrageously high bills – as high as tens of thousands, and in fact sometimes even lakhs of rupees for domestic users! They have to pay up first, otherwise their connection is cut. The redressal of complaint happens afterwards if at all.
  • Private companies do not even pay the charges which they are supposed to pay to the local Municipality and the State government, thus openly looting public money.
  • Private companies increase their profits by hiring unskilled workers on contract for skilled jobs. This adversely affects the users.
  • The most horrifying thing about Bhiwandi is that more than 150 contract workers have died due to electric shock in the course of their work, but this has been hushed up with the connivance of the authorities!

Various public services are being increasingly privatized. This is being done without consulting us, the citizens, who are the recipients of these services. This has been done by all the parties that have come to power at the center and state levels.

Water, Electricity, Ration, Transport, Banking, Education, Health, Communication are some of the basic essential services which, we the citizens, must get at affordable prices.  In our country it has been accepted from ancient times that it is the duty of the state to ensure “suraksha” and “sukh” of the people. It is thus the primary duty of each government to provide all the essential services of good quality at affordable prices to all the citizens. We the citizens cannot accept the government looking at such services to generate profit. However one government after the other have been justifying their drive towards the privatization of public services, claiming that those services are running in loss and that they do not have the required funds to run them. Who can believe this nonsense when the same governments, without batting an eyelid, are waiving off lakhs of crores of overdue loans of big industrial houses?

How can we believe that privatisation will improve services for the citizens at large? Even a child can understand that private companies are run to maximize profits, at the expense of workers and users alike.

We already have experience of the effects on citizens of privatization of different services:

Transport sector

  • Fares soar;
  • Safety is compromised since untrained contract labor is employed by private companies for doing important skilled work;
  • Routes where number of commuters are less are simply stopped;
  • During low rush periods services are drastically curtailed.

Education

  • It becomes increasingly so expensive that higher education goes out of reach for most citizens;
  • Fees are increased arbitrarily;
  • Private education institutions demand large chunks of money under different pretexts which cannot be challenged;
  • Parents’ complaint redressal becomes increasingly difficult
  • Teachers and even professors are employed on contract or even clock-hour basis. They have to work under very exploitative conditions and this affects the quality of teaching as well.

Health

  • Government hospitals start reducing various medical services and treatments which they earlier were offering like X-Ray, Dialysis, Blood and Urine tests, MRI etc.
  • Health services become very expensive
  • Unnecessary tests and operations increase

Banking sector

  • Safety of money deposited by the account holders is highly compromised since there is no government backed guarantee for deposits
  • Interest rates on loans increases
  • Loans for essential purposes become more difficult to obtain
  • Simple services like pass book printing, cheque book, withdrawal of one’s own money, etc. are also levied with hefty service charges

Thus we see that in all these cases

-Control over privately operated services is extremely difficult since they claim that they are not answerable to citizens.

-After privatization, using RTI to get information becomes extremely difficult.

-Service sector generates maximum employment opportunities. But privatization of public services leads to contractualization of jobs, thus resulting in highly insecure and exploitative employment.

Privatisation can be stopped or even rolled back!

In UP the privatisation of electricity distribution in several metro cities has been successfully opposed.  Workers and users in Argentina and Britain successfully rolled back privatisation of trains. Workers of various sectors in India are already fighting against privatisation. Recently the workers of Haryana Roadways were able to block the attempts of the government to privatize that service. This was to the benefit of the passengers as well.

It is in the interest of us citizens to unite with the workers and demand that

-No public service should be handed over to private parties

-Citizens and Employee committees should be involved directly in improving the efficiency of the public services

-The government should never look at Public services with an eye for profit generation

Any government which says that it is unable to provide public services on its own, does not have a right to exist!

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