Solidarity to India's electricity workers defending electricity as public utility

Under the cover of Covid-19, whilst mass actions and gatherings are impossible, the government of India is trying to push through laws to privatise electricity

PSI affiliates have joined unions across the country to oppose privatisation, as they have every other time the government has attacked public energy. PSI sent this solidarity message and will be following up with advocacy to the central and state governments.

For more on the attempt to privatise electricity in India watch this video or read this background information.


Tejal Kanitkar, Associate Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, talks about the central government's Electricity (Amendment) Bill. The Bill has been opposed by state governments and employees' unions due to the push towards privatisation and the concentration of power with the Centre while states lose out.

Electricity (Amendment) Bill Lays the Ground for Further Privatisation

PSI extends our solidarity and respect to electricity workers and their unions taking action in India to defend public electricity as a public utility. This is the fourth time the government has tabled a Bill to privatise electricity, and the fourth time that workers will mobilise to stop electricity being commercialised, making profits for the obscenely rich whilst becoming more expensive for working people.

The Government of India should be focusing its efforts on addressing the Covid-19 crisis and making every effort to increase jobs and decent work at time when the country faces both a health and economic crisis. Instead, the government appears to be using the crisis to push through a neoliberal agenda that will advantage corporate interests.

This is the fourth time the government has tabled a Bill to privatise electricity, and the fourth time that workers will mobilise to stop electricity being commercialised

The Bill will significantly reduce the subsidies large numbers of people in India need, sending millions further into poverty. It will undermine the state governments’ ability to support their residents. It will carve off the most profitable parts of electricity generation and distribution for private sector profiteering and it will leave the most costly sections to be carried by the public.

Privatisation is a failed agenda. Forty years of neoliberalism has proven that privatisation drives down wages, drives up costs to the public, decreases the reliability and accessibility of services and becomes an economic drain on the public purse. The profits made from privatisation routinely end up in tax havens and serve as a drain on the economy. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty, Philip Alston, found that privatisation is “systematically eliminating human rights protections and further marginalising those living in poverty” and that privatisation has “become an ideology of governance that devalues public goods, public spaces, compassion and a range of other values that are essential for a decent society.”

It is laudable that the government has committed to increasing renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions. But a renewable energy strategy can only be successful if it is publicly owned and managed. The private sector will provide renewables when it is profitable and easy and will cut corners to make a profit.

The Covid-19 crisis has forced governments around the world to recognise the value of public services. Many are having to bring back privatised services into public hands as a result. This crisis will change our social and economic order. It can be used, as this Bill and the various efforts to suspend labour laws in India show, to increase the power and wealth of the obscenely rich. Or it can be used to bring about a healthier, fairer order where public services, decent work, and the ability to care for all define the new era. We will stand with you and fight for a better, fairer future for all of India.

In solidarity,

Kate Lappin
Regional Secretary, PSI Asia & Pacific