More than 5,000 people marched from Parsik Nagar to the Thane collector’s office on Saturday to protest the state’s decision to privatise power distribution in Kalwa, Mumbra and Diva, despite the government deciding to stay the move.
The Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL) had earlier proposed to privatise power distribution in these three areas from January 26. The company has already privatised power distribution in Bhiwandi to decrease losses and improve revenue.
The state electricity company has 84,000 consumers in Mumbra, 56,000 in Diva- Shil and 60,000 in Kalwa.
Several shops, markets, schools and commercial establishments in Kharegaon and Mumbra downed their shutters in support of the protest.
The protest march started around 10.00 am and within an hour had gathered thousands of supporters. Most shops had downed their shutters in Kharegaon and Kalwa, while autorickshaws stayed off the roads.
Some residents, though, did not seem to know what the protest was actually meant for. Sandhya Rohidas Patil, 35, a resident of Desai village in Diva said, “We were told that electricity bills are going to increase. This will affect our monthly budget and thus, we decided to join the protest.” However, after Kalwa Naka, business was happening as usual.
Representatives from opposing political parties rallied residents to stop all work in the three cities until the government rolled back their decision.
NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad, who joined the protestors at the collector’s office, said, “We have opposed privatisation from the start and the protest will continue until the decision is taken back.”
Thane’s guardian minister Eknath Shinde on Friday evening released a statement saying he had discussed the issue with Maharashtra energy minister Chandrashekar Bawankule. “He [Bawankule] gave a stay on the privatisation proposal. We will talk with all parties and come to a decision favourable for all. The privatisation decision will not be forced upon all.”
Following this statement, Shiv Sena leaders asked their local partymen not to participate in the protest. However, Sena corporators from Mumbra, Kalwa and Diva participated in the rally, claiming that the decision of stay should be submitted in writing.
Dasharath Patil, Sena leader and coordinator of the all-party committee said, “We have not received any letter about the stay. Until we get it in writing that the [privatisation] proposal has been cancelled or stayed, the protest will go on.”
“The MSEDCL has money to pay the private company, so why are they lamenting the losses? They can use the same money for the improvement of power network in Kalwa, Mumbra and Diva,” Patil said.
Anil Kamble, MSEDCL’s joint chief public relations officer, said he was not aware of any political decision being taken about the stay. “No communication has reached us yet. We have given the work order to the private agency to start the distribution work in Kalwa, Mumbra and Diva. I will, however, not comment if they will take over from January 26 or at a later date,” he said.
First Published: Jan 20, 2019 00:27 IST